Mains Paper 2: Governance | Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation.
From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:
Prelims level: Indian Forest Act, 1927
Mains level: Amending the colonial era definition acts and policies
- The MoEFCC has started the process of “comprehensively amending” the backbone of forest governance in India—the Indian Forest Act, 1927 (IFA).
Weeding out process
- The process would involve the examination of all the sections of the Act.
- The obsolete provisions will be weeded out and provisions fit for the present will be introduced.
- The amendments will also include definitions of terms like forests, pollution, ecological services etc.
- There is no definition of forest in any Indian law pertaining to forest or its governance.
- According to the 1996 Supreme Court order, the dictionary definition of the word forest is taken to be the legal definition too.
- This description covers all statutorily recognised forests, whether designated as reserved, protected or otherwise for the purpose of Section 2(i) of the Forest Conservation Act (1980).
- The term forest land, occurring in Section 2, will not only include forest as understood in the dictionary sense, but also any area recorded as forest in the government record irrespective of the ownership.
Impact of amendment
- The legal definition of forests will have huge ramifications on the conservation of forests as well as the implementation of the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006.
- The amendments will include changes to punishments and fines prescribed in the IFA, incorporate provisions related to carbon sequestering, ecological services etc.
Why such move?
- The provisions of IFA, like the amount of the fines prescribed for violating the law, were set according to that time and they are very low for today.
- Moreover, many laws concerning forest government have been implemented since 1927, with this amendment we will try to address conflicts which might be there in these laws with respect to the IFA.
- Many reports like the MB Shah report of 2010 and the TSR Subramanian report of 2015, have talked about amending the IFA.
Recent amendments in the IFA
- The Indian Forest Act, 1927 was amended to add new changes to transform the bamboo sector.
- Before, bamboo was categorised as a tree. As a result, felled or extracted bamboo, whether found in or brought from a forest, was considered as “timber”.
- The Act empowered state governments to regulate the trade and movement of bamboo.
- After amending Section 2(7) of Indian Forest Act, 1927, bamboo is no longer a tree and felled bamboo too is not timber.
- So any bamboo grown in private or homestead land by millions of farmers does not require a felling permission or transit permission from any state forest department.
Indian Forest Act, 1927 (IFA)
- The Indian Forest Act, 1927 was largely based on the British made Indian Forest Act of 1878.
- Both the 1878 act and the 1927 one sought to consolidate and reserve the areas having forest cover, or significant wildlife, to regulate movement and transit of forest produce, and duty leviable on timber and other forest produce.
- It also defines the procedure to be followed for declaring an area to be a Reserved Forest, a Protected Forest or a Village Forest.
- It defines what is a forest offence, what are the acts prohibited inside a Reserved Forest, and penalties leviable on violation of the provisions of the Act.
- Reserved Forest is an area mass of land duly notified under the provisions of India Forest Act or the State Forest Acts having full degree of protection. In Reserved Forests, all activities are prohibited unless permitted.