Indian Forest Act 1927

Indian Forest Act 1927 – UPSC

In this article, You will read Indian Forest Act 1927 for UPSC.

The Indian Forest Act, 1927 was largely based on previous Indian Forest Acts implemented under the British. The most famous one was the Indian Forest Act of 1878. Both the 1878 act and the 1927 act sought to consolidate and reserve the areas having forest cover, or significant wildlife, to regulate movement and transit of forest produce, and the 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.

Definition of forest

  • ECOLOGICAL – Area dominated by trees
  • LEGAL – Area notified under the Forest Act, 1927
  • SURVEY – Area of more than 1-hectare having canopy density of more than 10 percent
  • JUDICIAL – Godavarman Case
    • Supreme Court judgment expanded the definition of the forest to include lands that were already notified by the Centre as forests, that appear in government records as forests as well as those that fell in the “dictionary definition” of the forest.

Background

  • Indian Forest Act of 1865: The Imperial Forest Department, set up in 1864, attempted to establish British control over forests, by various legislations
    • It empowered the British government to declare any land covered with trees as a government forest and make rules to manage it.
  • Indian Forest Act of 1878: By the Forest Act of 1878, the British Administration acquired the sovereignty of all wastelands which by definition included forests.
    • This Act also enabled the administration to demarcate reserved and protected forests. The local rights were refused in the case of protected forests while some privileges which were given to the local people by the government which can be taken away are anytime.
    • This Act classified the forests into three – reserved forests, protected forests and village forests. It attempted to regulate the collection of forest produce by forest dwellers and some activities declared as offences and imprisonment and fines were imposed in this policy to establish the state control over forests.

Indian Forest Act 1927

This Act impacted the life of forest-dependent communities. The penalties and procedures given in this Act aimed to extend the state’s control over forests as well as diminishing the status of people’s rights to forest use.

  • The village communities were alienated from their age-old symbiotic association with forests. Further amendments were also made to restrain the local use of forests mainly by forest-dependent communities.
  • It was enacted to make forest laws more effective and to improve the previous forest laws.

Objective

  • To consolidate all the previous laws regarding forests.
  • To give the Government the power to create different classes of forests for their effective usage for the colonial purpose.
  • To regulate movement and transit of forest produce, and duty leviable on timber and other forest produce.
  • To define the procedure to be followed for declaring an area as Reserved Forest, Protected Forest, or Village Forest.
  • To define forest offenses acts prohibited inside the Reserved Forest, and penalties leviable on the violation.
  • To make conservation of forests and wildlife more accountable.

Features

  1. Notification of forests in India is done under this act.
  2. The act also categorises forests in 3 types-
    1. Reserved Forest – Every activity is prohibited unless permitted.
    2. Protected Forest – Every activity is permitted unless prohibited.
    3. Village Forest – Very less restriction is there.
  3. The act has punishment for trade in timer, encroachment, etc.
  4. The act prescribes the creation of a state forest department to look after the forests.
Types of Forests
  • Reserved Forests: Reserve forests are the most restricted forests and are constituted by the State Government on any forest land or wasteland which is the property of the Government.
    • In reserved forests, local people are prohibited, unless specifically allowed by a Forest Officer in the course of the settlement.
  • Protected Forests: The State Government is empowered to constitute any land other than reserved forests as protected forests over which the Government has proprietary rights and the power to issue rules regarding the use of such forests.
    • This power has been used to establish State control over trees, whose timber, fruit or other non-wood products have revenue-raising potential.
  • Village forest: Village forests are the ones in which the State Government may assign to ‘any village community the rights of Government to or over any land which has been constituted a reserved forest’.
  • Degree of protection
    • Reserved forests > Protected forests > Village forests

Drawbacks

  • The government claimed that the act was aimed to protect the vegetation cover of India. However, a deep investigation of the act reveals that the real motive behind the act was to earn revenue from the cutting of the trees and from the forest produce.
  • The act gave immense discretion and power to the forest bureaucracy which often led to the harassment of the forest dwellers.
  • Moreover, it led to depriving the nomads and tribal people of their age-old rights and privileges to use the forests and forest produce.
  • The revenue earning potential from timber overshadowed the other values like biodiversity, prevention of soil erosion, etc.

Criticism

Forests were notified but tribal rights were not recognised. This made tribal unlawful settlers in the forest. This was the historic wrong done by the act. Finally, the historic wrong was corrected by the Forest Rights Act, 2006.

Current Issue

Recently an amendment was done to declare bamboo as minor forest produce only in non-forest area.

Later Initiatives

  • Indian Forest Policy, 1952: The Indian Forest Policy, 1952 was a simple extension of colonial forest policy. However, it became conscious about the need to increase the forest cover to one-third of the total land area.
    • At that time maximum annual revenue from forests is a vital national need. The two World Wars, the need for defense, developmental projects such as river valley projects, industries like pulp, paper, and plywood, and communication heavily depended on forest produce on national interest, as a result, huge areas of forests were cleared to raise revenue for the State.
  • Forest Conservation Act, 1980: The Forest Conservation Act, 1980 stipulated that central permission is necessary to practice sustainable agro-forestry in forest areas. Violation or lack of permit was treated as a criminal offense.
    • It targeted to limit deforestation, conserve biodiversity, and save wildlife. Though this Act provides greater hope towards forest conservation it was not successful in its target.
  • National Forest Policy, 1988: The ultimate objective of the National Forest policy was to maintain environmental stability and ecological balance through the conservation of forests as a natural heritage.
    • The National Forest Policy in 1988 made a very significant and categorical shift from commercial concerns to focus on the ecological role of the forests and participatory management.
  • Some of the other Acts related to forest conservation are :
    • The Wildlife Protection Act of 1972, The Environment Protection Act of 1986, and The Biodiversity Protection Act of 2003.
    • Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006: It has been enacted to recognize and vest the forest rights and occupation of forest land in forest-dwelling Scheduled Tribes and other traditional forest dwellers, who have been residing in such forests for generations.

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