Deemed forest: SC nod awaited, BSY govt considers releasing 67% of it
What are deemed forests?
- There are forests that are notified either with the forest department or revenue department. Then there are those areas that are like forests but are neither recorded, nor notified.
- While the concept of deemed forests has not been clearly defined in any law including the Forest Conservation Act of 1980, the Supreme Court in the case of T N Godavarman Thirumulpad (1996) accepted a wide definition of forests under the Act.The Supreme Court had ordered that the states identify and classify these as deemed forests.
- The term ‘forest land’ occurring in Section 2 of the Forest Conservation Act 1980 includes ‘forest’ not only in the dictionary sense, but also any areas recorded as forest in the government record irrespective of the ownership.
- The provisions enacted in the Forest Conservation Act 1980 for the conservation of forest and the matters connected therewith must apply clearly to all forests so understood irrespective of the ownership or classification thereof.
- Preservation of forest areas in India under the Forest Conservation Act, 1980 has been continuously monitored by the Supreme Court since the Godavarman case judgment in 1996.
- The state government must obtain clearances from the Supreme Court for affecting changes to land classified as deemed forests since the verdict.
Why in the news?
- The Karnataka Assembly has decided to declassify 6.64 lakh hectares of deemed forest and divert it to other economical use.
- The Karnataka government has requested the Supreme Court to give an order regarding the declassification.
- The state government says that the SC has unscientifically claimed all the land to be deemed forest.
- Because according to the judgement, areas like thickly wooded areas of the Revenue Department not handed over to the Forest Department; thickly wooded areas recommended to be handed over to the Forest Department; thickly wooded land distributed to grantees but not cultivated; and thickly wooded plantations of the Forest Department could all be ‘deemed forests’.
- The subjective classification in turn resulted in conflicts between the Forest Department and other departments like Revenue, Irrigation, Public Works and Energy, the Karnataka government has argued.
- This classification has also brought hardship to farmers and mining. Hence they are claiming 6.64 lakh hectares out of 9.94 lakh hectares of deemed forest.
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