Lohiya Vs. State of Maharashtra & Anr  INSC 1010 (23 August 1996)
Ray, B.L. Hansaria Hansaria. J.
bamboo mat as a forest-produce as is this expression known to the Indian forest
Act ? requires our determination on this appeal. This question would decide Whether
the order of confiscation of bamboo mat belonging to the appellant was in
accordance with law. The Bombay High Court, having been approached in revision
by the State against the order of the Additional Sessions Judge directing
release of the bamboo mat, has reversed the order being of the view that the
product confiscated was "forest-produce".
owner of the bamboo mat has approached this Court by filing this appeal.
"Forest-produce" has been defined in The Indian Forest Act, 1927
(hereinafter referred to as "the Act") as below:
"forest-produce" includes :- (a) the following she their found in, or
brought from, a forest or not, that is to say timber, charcoal, caoutchouc,
catechu, wood-oil, resin, natural varnish, bark, lac, mahua flowers, mahua
seeds, kuth and myrabolams, and (b) the following when found in, or brought
from a forest, that is to say - (i) trees and leaves, flowers and fruits, and
all other parts or produce not herein before mentioned, of trees.
plants not being trees (including grass, creepers, reeds and moss), and all
parts or produce of such plants, (iii) wild animals an skins, tusks, horns,
bones, silk, horns, honey and was, and all other parts or produce of animals,
and (iv) peat, surface soil, rock and minerals (including lime-stone, laterite.
mineral oils, and all products of mines or quarries)." We must also note
the definition of "timber" as given in sub-clause (6) and of
"tree' in sub-clause (7) - the same being as below :
" timber' includes trees when they have fallen or have been felled, and
all wood whether cut up or fashioned or hollowed out for any purpose or not;
and (7) "tree" includes palms, bamboos, stumps, brush-wood and
High Court's decision is principally based on a conjoint reading of definition
of "timber" and "tree". It has stated that as definition of
"tree" includes bamboo, and as definition of "timber"
includes tree, even a fashioned bamboo would be a tree. It was then stated that
"forest- produce" having been defined as any produce of tree in sub-
clause (i) of clause (b) of sub section (4), bamboo mat is forest-produce. In
taking this view the High Court differed from what had been held Gujarat High
Court in Fatesang Gimba Vasava vs. State of Gujarat, AIR 1987 Gujarat 9.
Bhatia, appearing for the appellant, who was duly assisted by Ms. Verma,
submitted that the High Court erred in holding that a product like bamboo mat
would be forest- produce by relying on the definition of "timber"
because that definition is in two parts and the second part which speaks of
"all wood ......fashioned....... or not" has no application so far
trees are concerned, which have been dealt in the first part of the definition.
It has also been urged that bamboo mat being a separate commercial product what
was stated by the Gujarat High Court in Fatesang's case merits our acceptance.
Dholakia, who was duly assisted by Shri Jadhav, however, contends that if
bamboo mat is held to be not a forest-produce, the object of the Act would be
frustrated inasmuch as it would debar the forest authorities to inquire about
the removal of such goods from the forests, which would be used as a handle by
unscrupulous dealers to denude the country of his forest wealth. To buttress
his submission, reference has been made in the definition of
"produce" in Stroud's Judicial Dictionary which reads : the
expression 'produce of mines or minerals' does not necessarily mean produce in
its native state; coke may be such produce, although by combustion its chemical
nature is changed."
have given our considered thought to the rival contentions. It appears to us
that the High Court erred in taking the abovesaid view by referring to the
definition of "timber" inasmuch as we agree with Shri Bhatia that the
second part of the definition does not take within its fold fashioned bamboo as
that part is relatable to wood, and not tree. We have said so because the
definition of tree includes even canes, and a cane cannot be taken as a wood,
even if a tree could be. But then, the High Court has also referred to
sub-clause (i) (supra) which speaks of produce of tree as well. As to this,
submission of the appellant's counsel has been that when sub-clause (i) is read
as a whole the same would clearly indicate that such produce of tree alone is
contemplated which is a natural growth or product like flowers and fruits. This
submission has force when the definition of forest-produce is read in its
entirety which would show that the definition either includes nature's gifts
like charcoal, mahua flowers or minerals. Wild animals of which sub-clause
(iii) speaks of is also a God's gift and not man-made. Wherever the legislature
wanted to include article produced with the aid of human labour, it has said so
specifically as would appear from sub-clause (iv), as it speaks, apart from
minerals etc. of "all products of mines or quarries".
legislature having defined "forest-produce", it is not permissible to
us to read in the definition something which is not there. We are conscious of
the fact that forest wealth is required to be preserved; but, it is not open to
us to legislate, as what a court can do in a matter like at hand is to iron out
cresses; it cannot weave a new texture.
there be any lacuna in the definition it is really for the legislature to take
care of the same.
may also state that according to us the view taken by the Gujarat High Court in
Fatesang's case is correct, because though bamboo as a whole is forest produce,
if a product, commercially new and distinct, known to the business community as
totally different is brought into existence by human labour, such an article
and product would cease to be a forest-produce. The definition of this
expression leaves nothing to doubt that it would dot take within its fold an
article or thing which is totally different from, forest-produce, having a
distinct character. May it be stated that where a word or an expression is
defined by the legislature, courts have to look to that definition; the general
understanding of it can not be determinative. So, what has been stated in Strouds'
Judicial Dictionary regarding a "produce" can not be decisive.
Therefore, where a product from bamboo is commercially different from it and in
common parlance taken as a distinct product, the same would not be encompassed
within the expression "forest-produce" as defined in section 2 (4) of
the Act, despite it being inclusive in nature. that bamboo mat is taken as a
product distinct from bamboo in the commercial world, has not been disputed
before us and rightly.
view of all the above, we hold that bamboo mat is not a forest-produce in the
eye of the Act, and so, allow the appeal, set aside the impugned judgment of
the High Court and state that the order of confiscation passed by the
Conservator of Forest was not in accordance with law.