Nambiar Vs. State of Karnataka & Ors.
Smt. Meenakshi Amma Vs.
State of Karnataka & Ors.
Smt. Girija Nambiar ..
Vs. State of Karnataka & Ors.
Sri K. Balakrishna
Nambiar Vs. State of Karnataka & Ors.
J U D G M E N T
Civil Appeal No.4994
of 2004 :
appeal is directed against the final judgment and order of the High Court of Karnataka
at Bangalore dated 3rd September, 2003, in Writ Appeal No. 3530 of 2003 (GM -
FOR) arising out of Writ Petition No. 17766 of 2000 vide which the order of the
Learned Single Judge was affirmed and the appeal was accordingly dismissed.
appellant herein is the transferee of leasehold rights of the land to an extent
of 25 acres in Survey No. 336/1A1 (75 acres in total) of Aletti village of Sullia
Taluk, Dakshnia Kannada district. The original order of lease grant was made in
the favour of one Sri. M. Shankara Narayana Kadambalithaya in the year 1949 by
the then government of Madras for a period of 50 years vide order of grant dated
24th March, 1949, issued by the District Forest Officer, Mangalore. The land was
granted for the purpose of raising areca nut plantation. The lessee was permitted
to grow pepper and other fruit bearing trees as subsidiary crops on the land. Thereafter,
on the death of the original lessee, his legal representatives, after obtaining
permission from the State Government, alienated the lease hold rights in favour
of the appellant. The lease in regard to a portion of the land was to expire on
31st March, 1999 and in regard to remaining portion in the year 2000.
appellant submitted an application dated 4th June, 1996 for renewal of the lease.
It appears that no action was taken on the application for renewal. Consequently,
apprehending eviction, immediately after the lease period, the appellant alongwith
two others filed a writ petition No. 9570-9572 of 1999 in the High Court of Karnataka
at Bangalore. In the aforesaid writ petition, the appellant had prayed for the
issuance of writ of mandamus directing the respondents to consider the applications
for renewal of the lease deed of the land in question. The High Court vide its order
dated 25th March, 1999 disposed of the writ petition with a direction to the respondents
therein to consider the application for the renewal of the lease in accordance
with law and dispose of the same within two months of the date of receipt of the
copy of the order.
appellant thereafter made another representation to respondent No. 2 seeking renewal
of the lease. However by order dated 25th March, 2000, the State Government cancelled
the lease deed and directed the appellant to hand over the possession of the lease
hold land back to the forest department to the extent of 48 acres out of 75 acres
immediately and the remaining 27 acres by 31st December, 2001. The reasons given
by the State Government in its order dated 25th March, 2000 for rejecting the claim
of the appellant were as under:- "The leasehold land is surrounded by
thick forest in East Aletty Reserved Forest Land; this area is near to the
boundary of Kerala and Karnataka State. In the event of extending the period of
Lease in respect of this area, it is likely that there may be problem for
movement of men and vehicles and in order to protect the interest of Forest, it
is not felt advisable to lease the extent of 48 acres of Forest land, as the lessees
have already raised Areca, Coconut and Cashew trees on the leasehold lands and those
trees have fully developed and in the event of extending the Lease period, it is
likely that the lessees would commence fresh cultivation on the land in question.
It is proposed to take
possession of the land in respect of which Lease period is completed and thereafter
after doing forestery work on this land and on the land naturally grown trees are
allowed to be protected fully and the Reserved Forest could be taken possession
and could be maintained as a Reserved forest land only. As the renewal of the
Lease or the extension of Lease period would involve obtaining prior sanction
of the Central Government and therefore there is no room for granting the
forest land for the purpose of forest activities within the Reserved Forest
Area. As the period of Lease transferred in favour of Shri K Balakrishnan
Nambiar, out of the total extent of 75 acres, Lease period comes to an end in
respect of an extent of 48 acres on 31.3.1999, it is felt desirable that there
is no justification to extend the Lease period in respect of the Leasehold land
and that the Department should take back the possession of the land from the Lessee
and in respect of the remaining extent of 27 acres the
Lease period expires on
31.12.2001 and thereafter without extending that lease also after the lease period
is over, the possession of that land also should be taken back to the department.
After examining these proceedings the Government has passed the following
order:- ORDER OF GOVERNMENT; FG 17 FLL 97, Bangalore,Dated : 25.3.2000.Having regard
to the background and reasons explained above, it is hereby ordered that out of
the extent of 75 acres of Leasehold land transferred in favour of Sri Balakrishnan
Nambiar in the land in S.No.336/1A6 of Aletty Reserved forest land; an extent of
48 acres of Leased land is ordered to be forthwith taken possession of by the
Forest Department. It is also hereby ordered that the remaining extent of 27
acres in respect of which lease period comes to an end on 31.12.2001 and
thereafter the Lease period should not be extended and the possession of that
land also should be taken over by the Forest Department. By order and in the
name of the Governor of Karnataka, Sd/-xx K Krishnamurthy, Under Secretary to
Government, Forest & Environment Department."
by the aforesaid order, the appellant again moved the High Court of Karnataka at
Bangalore in writ petition No. 17766 of 2000. The learned Single Judge dismissed
the Writ Petition by order dated 9th April, 2003. The Writ Appeal No. 3530 of 2003
filed by the appellant as against the judgment of the learned Single Judge was also
dismissed by order dated 3rd September, 2003. The Division Bench of the High
Court held that the issue is concluded by this Court in the case of T.N. Godavarman
Thirumulkpad Vs. Union of India1 wherein it has been held that no forest area shall
be used for nonforestal activities. The Division 1 AIR (1997) SC 1228 Bench
judgment is under challenge before us in the present appeal.
have heard the learned counsel for parties at length.
K.V. Vishwanathan, learned senior counsel appearing for the appellant submits that
the High Court has dismissed the matter on erroneous interpretation of the judgment
of this Court in T.N. Godavarman's case (supra). He then submits that aforesaid
judgment of this Court was with regard to `nonforestal' activities in the `reserved
forest' area. He further submits that plantation of arecanut trees, cashew trees,
coconut trees and black pepper vines do not amount to nonforestal activities.
He further relies on the reports of the Assistant Conservator of Forest with regard
to the adjoining lands, which were similarly leased, to indicate that the lands
have lost all the character of forest land and in fact the status of the lands
according to the said report had ceased to be `reserved forest'.
Therefore, judgment in
the Godavarman's case (supra) would not be applicable in the instant matter. He
thereafter submits that the appellant has not violated the conditions of grant and
his activities on the land do not include breaking up or clearing of any forest
land or portion thereto. He then submits that the appellant has incurred huge investments
to raise valuable arecanut trees for a number of years. Therefore, it would cause
grave injustice to him if the lease period is not renewed. He also submits that
appellant has no other source of income. The learned counsel further draws our attention
to the letter dated 19th February, 1994 where the Chief Conservator of Forest, Bangalore,
has recommended to the State Government for confirming the lease grant on permanent
the other hand, Mr. Anand Sanjay M. Nuli, learned counsel for the State, submits
that the lease land is a part of the statutorily declared reserved forest, having
been declared as such by Order No. 318 dated 9th February, 1907. This was published
in Notification of Board of Revenue (Land Revenue) Forest No. 32 dated 22nd February,
1907, which had declared the land under lease as reserved forest with effect from
1st May 1907 under the Madras Forest Act, 1882. Since then, it has continued to
be the reserved forest land. The grant of lease in favour of the predecessors of
the appellant did not have the effect of dereservation. At the expiry of the
lease, the land was expected to be surrendered to the State as forest land.
He further submits that
after the enactment of the Forest Conservation Act, 1980, no forest land can be
dereserved without prior approval of the Central Government. Under no circumstances,
forest land can be permitted to be used for nonforestal activities. Learned counsel
submitted that the High Court was bound to dismiss the writ petition as the matter
was squarely covered by the judgment of this Court in T.N. Godavarman's case (supra).
In order to ensure the effective implementation of the Forest Conservation Act,
1980, the State Government has taken a policy decision not to continue the
lease of any forest land. The policy of the State, according to the learned
counsel, is in conformity with National Forest Policy, 1988, which has been formulated
to maintain the environmental stability and to preserve the ecological balance.
The learned counsel submits that the State Government has rejected the claim of
the appellant, after taking due notice of the legal position as well as any
hardship that may be caused to him.
have considered the submissions made by the learned counsel for the parties. In
our opinion, in view of the judgment of this Court in Godavarman's case (supra),
it is not necessary to dilate upon the matter at length, since all the issues raised
by Mr. Vishwanathan have been elaborately considered and decided in the aforesaid
judgment. We are unable to accept the submission of Mr. Vishwanathan that arecanut
cultivation cannot be treated as a nonforestal activity, merely because it does
not involve any cutting of the trees. On the other hand, the Government has
given cogent and valid reasons for non-renewal of the lease. The order passed by
the Government makes it clear that the leasehold land is surrounded by thick forest
in East Aletty Reserved Forest land; this area is near to the boundary of Kerala
and Karnataka State. It notices that extending the period of lease in respect of
this area is likely to cause problems for the movement of men and vehicles.
It is also noticed that
lessees have already raised Areca, Coconut and Cashew trees on the leasehold lands
and those trees are fully developed. Therefore, in the event of extending the
lease period, it is likely that the lessee would commence fresh cultivation on
the land in question. The intention of the Government is to develop naturally grown
forests over the lands. This can only be done if the possession is taken by the
Government. Addressing the similar issues, this Court in Godavarman's case
(supra) has observed as follows:- "The 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 for 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 covers 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 v. State
of Gujarat, Rural Litigation and Entitlement Kendra v. State of U.P. and recently
in the order dated 29-11-1996 (Supreme Court Monitoring Committee v. Mussoorie Dehradun
Development Authority). The earlier decision of this Court in State of Bihar v.
Banshi Ram Modi 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
making these observations, a specific direction has been issued, to all the State
Governments, to ensure that all ongoing non- forest activity within any forest,
without the prior approval of the Central Government, must cease forthwith. It was
emphasised that every State Government must ensure total cessation of all nonforestal
activities forthwith. Mr. Vishwanathan had also submitted that since the lease has
been granted prior to the operation of the 1980 Act and the land has been
declared as dereserved at the time of the grant of the lease, the lease can not
be automatically cancelled upon promulgation of the 1980 Act. In our opinion, the
aforesaid submission of the learned counsel is also no longer res integra as it
has been answered in the case of Nature Lovers Movement Vs. State of Kerala &
consideration of the earlier cases pertaining to the conservation of forests in
India, this Court culled out certain principles. We may, however, notice only
the observations made in Paragraphs 47 and 48, which are as under:- "47. The
ratio of the above noted judgments is that the 1980 Act is applicable to all forests
irrespective of the ownership or classification thereof and after 25-10-1980 i.e.
the date of enforcement of the 1980 Act, no State Government or other authority
can pass an order or give a direction for dereservation of reserved forest or any
portion thereof or permit use of any forest land or any portion thereof for any
non-forest purpose or grant any lease, etc. in respect of forest land to any private
person or any authority, corporation, agency or organisation which is not owned,
managed or controlled by the Government. 48. Another principle which emerges from
these judgments is that even if any forest land or any portion thereof has been
used for non-forest purpose, like undertaking of mining activity for a particular
length of time, prior to the enforcement of the 1980 Act, the tenure of such activity
cannot be extended by way of renewal of lease or otherwise after 25-10-1980 without
obtaining prior approval of the Central Government."
view of the aforesaid observations, we are of the considered opinion that there
is no merit in the appeal. The appeal is accordingly dismissed with no order as
to costs. Civil Appeal No. 4995 of 2004, Civil Appeal No. 4996 of 2004 and Civil
Appeal No.3973 of 2011(Arising out of SLP (C) No. 26371 of 2008)
granted in Civil Appeal No. 3973 of 2011 (Arising out of SLP (C) No.26371 of 2008).
view of the judgment passed in Civil Appeal No. 4994 of 2004, these appeals are
also dismissed with no order as to costs.
[Surinder Singh Nijjar]