Thirumulkpad Vs. Union of India & Ors  INSC 1601
(12 December 1996)
Verma, B.N. Kirpal
W.P.(Civil) No. 171/96)
O R D
view of the great significance of the points involved in these matters, relating
to the protection and conservation of the forests throughout the country, it
was considered necessary that the Central Government as well as the Governments
of all the States are heard. Accordingly, notice w as issued to all of them. We
have heard the learned Attorney General for the Union of India, learned counsel
appearing for the States and the parties/applicants and, in addition, the
learned Amicus Curiae, Shri H.N. Salve, assisted by Sarvashri U. U. Lalit, Mahender
Das and P.K. Manohar. After hearing all the learned counsel, who have rendered
very able assistance to the court, we have formed the opinion that the matters
require a further indepth hearing to examine all the aspects relating to the
National Forest Policy. For this purpose, several points which emerged during
the course of the hearing require further study by the learned counsel and,
therefore, we defer the continuation of this hearing for some time to enable
the learned counsel to further study these points.
we are of the opinion that certain interim directions are necessary at this
stage in respect of some aspects. We have heard the learned Attorney General
and the other learned counsel on these aspects.
emerged at the hearing, that there is a misconception in certain quarters about
the true scope of the Forest Conservation Act, 1980 (for short the `Act') and
the meaning of the word "forest" used therein. There is also a
resulting misconception about the need of prior approval of the Central
Government, as required by Section 2 of the Act, in respect of certain
activities in the forest area which are more often of a commercial nature. It
is necessary to clarify that position.
Forest Conservation Act, 1980 was enacted with a view to check further
deforestation which ultimately results in ecological imbalance; and therefore,
the provisions made therein for the conservation of forests and fore matters
connected therewith, must apply to all forests irrespective of the nature of
ownership or classification thereof. The word "forest: must be understood
according to its dictionary meaning. This description cover all statutorily recognised
forests, whether designated as reserved, protected or otherwise for the purpose
of Section 2(i) of the Forest Conservation Act. 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. This is how it has to be
understood for the purpose of Section 2 of the Act. The provisions enacted in
the Forest Conservation Act, 1980 for the conservation of forests and the
matters connected therewith must apply clearly to all forests so understood
irrespective of the ownership or classification thereof. This aspect has been
made abundantly clear in the decisions of this Court in Ambica Quarry Works and
ors. versus State of Gujarat and ors. (1987 (1) SCC 213), Rura'
Litigation and Entitlement Kendra versus State of U.P. (1989 Suppl. (1) SCC 504), and recently in the order
dated 29th November,
1996 in W.P.(C)
No.749/95 (Supreme Court Monitoring Committee vs. Mussorie Dehradun Development
Authority and ors.). The earlier decision of this Court in 643) has, therefore,
to be understood in the light of these subsequent decisions. We consider it
necessary to reiterate this settled position emerging from the decisions of
this court to dispel the doubt, if any, in the perception of any State
Government or authority. This has become necessary also because of the stand
taken on behalf of the State of Rajasthan, even at this late stage, relating to permissions granted for mining in
such area which is clearly contrary to the decisions of this court. It is
reasonable to assume that any State Government which has failed to appreciate
the correct position in law so far, will forthwith correct its stance and take
the necessary remedial measures without any further delay.
further direct as under:- I. General:
view of the meaning of the word "forest" in the Act, it is obvious
that prior approval of the Central Government is required for any non-forest
activity within the area of any "forest". In accordance with Section
2 of the Act, all on-going activity within any forest in any State throughout
the country, without the prior approval of the Central Government, must cease
forthwith. It is, therefore, clear that the running of saw mills of any kind
including veneer or ply-wood mills, and mining of any mineral are non-forest
purposes and are, therefore, not permissible without prior approval of the
Central Government. Accordingly, any such activity is prima facie violation of
the provisions of the Forest Conservation Act, 1980. Every State Government
must promptly ensure total cessation of all such activities forthwith.
addition to the above, in the tropical wet ever- green forests of Tirap and Changlang
in the State of Arunachal Pradesh, there would be a complete ban on felling of
any kind of trees therein because of their particular significance to maintain
ecological balance needed to preserve bio-diversity. All saw mills, veneer
mills and ply- wood mills in Tirap and Changlang in Arunachal Pradesh and
within a distance of 100 Kms. from its border, in Assam, should also be closed
immediately. The State Governments of Arunachal Pradesh and Assam must ensure
compliance of this direction.
felling of trees in all forests is to remain suspended except in accordance
with the Working Plans of the State Governments, as approved by the Central
Government. In the absence of any Working Plan in any particular State, such as
Arunachal Pradesh, where the permit system exists, the felling under the
permits can be done only by the Forest Department of the State Government or
the State Forest Corporation.
There shall be a complete ban on the movement of cut trees and timber from any
of the seven North-Eastern States to any other State of the country either by
rail, road or water-ways. The Indian Railways and the State Governments are
directed to take all measures necessary to ensure strict compliance of this
direction. This ban will not apply to the movement of certified timber required
for defence or other Government purpose. This ban will also not affect felling
in any private plantation comprising of trees planted in any are which is not a
Each State Government should constitute within one month an Expert Committee
Identify areas which are "forests", irrespective of whether they are
so notified, recognised or classified under any law, and irrespective of the
ownership of the land of such forest;
areas which were earlier forests but stand degraded, denuded or cleared; and
areas covered by plantation trees belonging to the Government and those
belonging to private persons.
Each State Government should within two months, file a report regarding:-
number of saw mills, veneer and plywood mills actually operating within the
State, with particulars of their real ownership;
licensed and actual capacity of these mills for stock and sawing;
proximity to the nearest forest;
source of timber.
Each State Government should constitute within one month, an Expert Committee
to assess :
sustainable capacity of the forests of the State qua saw mills and timber based
number of existing saw mills which can safely be sustained in the State;
optimum distance from the forest, qua that State, at which the saw mill should
Expert Committees so constituted should be requested to give its report within
one month of being constituted.
Each State Government would constitute a Committee comprising of the Principal
Chief Conservator of Forests and another Senior Officer to oversee the compliance
of this order and file status reports.
FOR THE STATE OF JAMMU & KASHMIR:
There will be no felling of trees permitted in any "forest", public
or private. This ban will not affect felling in any private plantations
comprising of trees planted by private persons or the Social Forestry
Department of the State of Jammu & Kashmir and in such plantations, felling
will be strictly in accordance with law.
`forests', the State Government may either departmentally or through the State
Forest Corporation remove fallen trees or fell and remove diseased or dry
standing timber, and that only from areas other than those notified under the
Jammu & Kashmir Wild Life Protection Act, 1978 or any other law banning
such felling or removal of trees.
this purpose, the State Government will constitute an Expert Committee
comprising of a representative being an IFS Officer posted in the State of
Jammu & Kashmir, a representative of the State Government, and two private
experts of eminence and the Managing Director of the State Forest Corporation
(as Member Secretary) who will fix the qualitative and quantitative norms for
the felling of fallen trees, diseased and dry standing trees. The State shall
ensure that the trees so felled and removed by it are strictly in accordance
with these norms.
felling of trees in forest or otherwise or any clearance of land for execution
of projects, shall be in strict compliance with the Jammu & Kashmir Forest
Conservation Act, 1990 and any other laws applying thereto.
any trees so felled, and the disposal of such trees shall be done exclusively
by the State Forest Corporation and no private agency will be permitted to deal
with this aspect. This direction will also cover the submerged areas of the
timber obtained, as aforesaid or otherwise, shall be utilised within the State,
preferably to meet the timber and fuel wood requirements of the local people,
the Government and other local institutions.
movement of trees or timber (sawn or otherwise) from the State shall, for the
present, stand suspended, except for the use of DGS & D, Railways and Defence.
Any such movement for such use will –
effected after due certification, consignment-wise made by the Managing
Director of the State Corporation which will include certification that the
timber has come from State Forest Corporation sources; and
undertaken by either the Corporation itself, the Jammu & Kashmir Forest
Department or the receiving agency.
State of Jammu & Kashmir will file, preferably within one month from today,
a detailed affidavit specifying the quantity of timber held by private persons
purchased from State Forest Corporation Depots for transport outside the State
(other than for consumption by the DGS & D, Railways and Defence). Further
directions in this regard may be considered after the affidavit is filed.
saw mill, veneer or plywood mill would be permitted to operate in this State at
a distance of less than 8 Kms. from the boundary of any demarcated forest
areas. Any existing mill falling in this belt should be relocated forthwith.
FOR THE STATE OF HIMACHAL
THE HILL REGIONS OF THE STATES OF UTTAR PRADESH AND WEST BENGAL:
There will be no felling of trees permitted in any forest, public or private.
This ban will not affect felling in any private plantation comprising of trees
planted in any area which is not a `forest'; and which has not been converted
from an earlier "forest". This ban will not apply to permits granted
to the right holders for their bonafide personal use in Himachal Pradesh.
a `forest', the State Government may either departmentally or through the State
Forest Corporation remove fallen trees or fell and remove diseased or dry
standing timber from areas other than those notified under Section 18 or
Section 35 of the Wild Life Protection Act, 1972 or any other Act banning such
felling or removal of trees.
this purpose, the State Government is to constitute an expert Committee
comprising a representative from MOEF, a representative of the State
Government, two private experts of eminence and the MD of the State Forest
Corporation (as Member Secretary), who will fix the qualitative and
quantitative norms for the felling of fallen trees and diseased and standing
timber. The State shall ensure that the trees so felled and removed are in
accordance with these norms.
Felling of trees in any forest or any clearance of forest land in execution of
projects shall be in strict conformity with the Forest Conservation Act, 1980
and any other laws applying thereto. Moreover, any trees so felled, and the
disposal of such trees shall be done exclusively by the State Forest
Corporation and no private agency is to be involved in any aspect thereof.
FOR THE STATE OF TAMIL NADU:
There will be a complete ban on felling of trees in all forest areas'. This
will however not apply to:- (a) trees which have been planted and grown, and
are not of spontaneous growth, and (b) are in areas which were not forests earlier,
but were cleared for any reason.
State Government, within four weeks from today, is to constitute a committee
for identifying all "forests".
Those tribals who are part of the social forestry programme in respect of patta
lands, other than forests, may continue to grow and cut according to the
Government Scheme provided that they grow and cut trees in accordance with the
so f ar as the plantations (tea, coffee, cardamom etc.) are concerned, it is
directed as under:
felling of shade trees in these plantations will be –
to trees which have been planted, and not those which have grown spontaneously;
limited to the species identified in the TANTEA report;
accordance with the recommendations of (including to the extent recommended by)
the supervision of the statutory committee constituted by the State Government.
so far as the fuel trees planted by the plantations for fuel wood outside the
forest area are concerned, the State Government is directed to obtain within
four weeks, a report from TANTEA as was done in the case of Shade trees, and
the further action for felling them will be as per that report. Meanwhile,
eucalyptus and wattle trees in such area may be felled by them for their own
use as permitted by the statutory committee.
State Government is directed to ascertain and identify those areas of the
plantation which are a "forest" and are not in active use as a
plantation. No felling of any trees is however to be permitted in these areas,
and sub- paras (b) and (c) above will not apply to such areas.
There will be no further expansion of the plantations in a manner so as to
involve encroachment upon (by way of clearing or otherwise) of
far as the trees already cut, prior to the interim order of this court dated
December 11, 1995 are concerned, the same may be permitted to be removed
provided they were not so felled from Janmam land. The State Government would
verify these trees and mark them suitably to ensure that this order is duly
complied with. For the present, this is being permitted as a one time measure.
Insofar as felling of any trees in Janmam lands is concerned (whether in
plantations ore otherwise), the ban on felling will operate subject to any
order made in the Civil Appeal Nos. 367 to 375 of 1977 in C.A. Nos. 1344-45 of
the order is made in those Civil Appeals on the I.As. pending therein, if
necessary, this aspect may be re- examined.
This order is to operate and to be implemented, notwithstanding any order at
variance, made or which may be made by any Government or any authority,
tribunal or court, including the High Court.
earlier orders made in these matters shall be read, modified wherever necessary
to this extent. This order is to continue, until further orders. This order
will operate and be complied with by all concerned, notwithstanding any order
at variance, made or which my be made hereafter, by any authority, including
the Central or any State Government or any court (including High Court) or
also direct that notwithstanding the closure of any saw mills or other
wood-based industry pursuant to this order, the workers employed in such units
will continue to be paid their full emoluments due and shall not be retrenched
or removed from service for this reason.
informed that the Railway authorities are still using wooden sleepers for
laying tracks. The Ministry of Railways will file an affidavit giving full
particulars in this regard including the extent of wood consumed by them, the
source of supply of wood, and the steps taken by them to find alternatives to
the use of wood.
Nos. 7,9,10,11,12,13 and 14 in Writ Petition (Civil) No. 202 of 1995 and I.A.
Nos. ,3,4,5,6,7,8 & 10 in Writ Petition (Civil) No. 171 of 1996 are
disposed of, accordingly.
the matter on February
25, 1997 as part-heard
for further hearing.