Updated: Jul 20
In the junior classes of school, we were introduced to the term ‘Forest’ as a place where there is a dense flora and fauna and this Act deals with regulating the items generated from forest and protecting the same. Moreover, it delivers various categories and extensive connotations to it. This Act was implemented on 21st September 1927 to levy tax on various ‘Forest produce’ comprising of Timber and penalize any law break done in accordance with this act.
The complete heading of this act is The Indian Forest Act, 1927 and it is also known as The Act No. 16 of 1927. It is applicable in the whole of India, other than the States which fell in the category of Part B states, right away prior to 1st November 1956. Furthermore, it is enforceable in the parts of the States of Bihar, Bombay, Coorg, Delhi, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Punjab, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal, which were there right before 1st November 1956. It is the prerogative of states to apply this Act partially or completely by a notice in the Official Gazette, which is given in Chapter 1, Section 1 of this Act.
List of Clauses of this Act:
· Chapter 2, Sections 3 to 27 deals with the Reserved Forest
· Chapter 3, Section 28 is related to the Village Forest.
· The Chapter 4, Sections 29 to 34 are about Protected Forest.
· Chapter 5, Sections 35 to 38 emphasizes the regulation of the Forest area and land which doesn’t belong to the Government.
· Chapter 6, Sections 39 & 40 includes the tax levied on Timber and Forest Produce.
· Chapter 7, Sections 41 to 44 deals with supervising Forest Produce including Timber which is in transit.
· Chapter 8, Sections 45 to 51 states the process to claim the Drift and Stranded Timber.
· Chapter 9, Section 52 to 69A comprises the fine imposed on the accused who break the law laid down by this Act.
· Chapter 10, Sections 70 to 71 throw light on the law relating to the encroachment done by livestock.
· Chapter 11, Sections 72 to 75 are about the Forest Officers.
· Chapter 12, Sections 76 to 78 includes the additional laws relating to the power of the State Government and the penalty imposed on the rule break.
· Chapter 13, Sections 79 to 86 comprises Miscellaneous Clauses.
This Blog contains an easy explanation of Chapters 2 and 3, Section wise.
According to this Section, there are 3 ways in which the State Government gains authority to put land be it Forest land or wasteland, in the category of Reserved Forest. Those 3 ways are:
1. If the Forest or wasteland is already under the Government’s regulation.
2. If the State Government has exclusive rights on such land.
3. If the Forest produce is partially or wholly owned by the Government.
This Section talks about the 3 things which the State Government has to do after branding a land as the Reserved Forest. Those 3 things are:
1. A notification has to be published by the State Government Declaring such land as a Reserved Forest.
2. In that notification, the Government has to mention the limitations imposed on such Land by laying down the frontier of that Reserved Forest by means of roads, rivers etc.
3. Then assign an Officer in the position of Forest Settlement Officer to deal with matters related to the characterization and scope of any right of any person in that Reserved Forest or any Right relating to the Forest produce of that Reserved Forest. The State Government has the power to employ a maximum of 3 Officers, out of which not more than one should be at any other Forest officer position than that of Forest Settlement Officer, to enforce the rules laid by this Act.
This Section comprises the manner in which the rights of the area of Reserved Forest can be acquired after the State Government issues a notification in the Official Gazette. There are 3 ways to acquire Rights in the Reserved Forest and they are:
1. By the way of Succession.
2. By way of a Grant from the State Government.
3. By the way of making a Written Contract with the Government or with any Person appointed by a mention in the Notification issued under Section 4, holding the authority to transfer rights of the Reserved Forest, on behalf of the State Government.
According to this Clause, The Forest Settlement Officer has to issue a Second notification in every locality surrounding that Reserved Forest and, in that notice, 3 things are to be mentioned which are as follows:
All the limitations imposed on the Forest which is branded as the Reserved Forest.
All the after-effects of breaking the rules in regard to the Reserved Forest.
Any person holding any Right in the land declared as the Reserved Forest, in accordance with Sections 4 and 5, shall be given time of minimum 3 months to claim such Right, in writing, by stating the Nature and scope of such Right to the Forest Settlement Officer and Compensation, if any.
This Section deals with the following matter:
i) All the people holding Rights (mentioned in Sections 4 & 5) in the land of the Reserved Forest have to claim such Rights in adherence with Section 6 and The Forest Settlement Officer has to take into account, all the claims that have been given in writing.
ii) Then the Forest Settlement Officer has to assess those claims on the following grounds:
A) Whether the claim of that person is valid or not?
B) Whether the Government is liable to pay any compensation to that person or not?
The authority of the Forest Settlement Officer in regard to ascertaining the matters laid down in Section 7, is given in Section 8 and that is as follows:
Power to go into any Land, for assessment, draw a map and survey it.
Power to empower any other person to go into any Land, for assessment, draw a map and survey it.
In case of any trial, the Forest Settlement Officer can try that suit like any Civil suit.
i) This Section deals with the termination of any such right which has not been claimed within the period of minimum 3 months, or the claim was found to be invalid by the Forest Settlement Officer under the assessment done as per Section 7.
ii) Exception: If the person holding a valid right over the Reserved Forest land fails to submit in writing, the claim of such right within the stipulated time laid down under Section 7, but such person gives a reasonable explanation for such delay and manages to convince the Forest Settlement Officer before the issuance of notice in accordance with Section 20.
This Section deals with the claims of Rights of Shifting Cultivation practice on the land of Reserved Forest. Let me tell you what Shifting Cultivation is, it is the method of Cultivation whereby the farmers after harvesting the crop, burn the land to prepare it for the next cultivation. This process is also called the ‘Slash and Burn’ process. This Section states the following:
The Forest Settlement Officer, if comes across the claim of Rights of the ‘Slash and Burn’ process of cultivation from any person on the land of the Reserved Forest, then firstly he has to record the testimony of that person elucidating the details of the Claim.
Then he has to attach any document which is related to permission of practicing Shifting Cultivation partly or wholly.
The Forest Settlement Officer has to also attach his view on whether this claim should be granted wholly, partly or denied wholly or partly.
Furthermore, these documents are to be tendered to the State Government. Then the State Government issues a judgment either granting wholly, partly or denying wholly or partly, the claim of that person.
Ø Condition: If the State Government grants permission for the practice of Shifting Cultivation, either wholly or partly.
Ø Further procedure: The Forest Settlement Officer has to make the following the following provisions:
i) The bounds of the Reserved Forest are changed and a particular portion of land is discounted, which is in accordance with the land demanded by the claimant.
ii) According to this provision, the nature and the scope of land which is demanded by the claimant is differently marked but the boundary of the Reserved Forest is not changed.
This Claim is supposed to be treated as a Right subjected to restrictions imposed by the State Government.
This Section talks about the process of applying for obtaining the land over which the Claimant has the right and it is as follows:
1. There is an exception of 2 Rights which are:
a) The Right-of-Way / The Right of Pasture
b) The Right to Forest Produce / The Right to Watercourse
Other than these Rights, all the other Rights on The Land of Reserved Forest are either authorized or denied by the way of a judgement given by the Forest Settlement Officer, either partly or wholly.
Ø Condition: If the Claim gets authorized partly or wholly.
Ø There are 3 ways to deal with this, which are:
i) The area, in accordance with the claim, gets discounted from the boundaries of the Reserved Forest.
ii) The State Government or any authorized person of the State Government enters into a contract for waiving of his Right over the land, with the claimant.
iii) That area can be gained by the claimant by adhering to the rules laid down by the Land Acquisition Act 1894.
Ø Further Procedure:
i) In this matter Land Acquisition Act 1894 applies, where the Forest Settlement Officer is considered as a Collector and the Claimant is considered as a person who is summoned by the notice, issued under Section 9 of the Land Acquisition Act 1894.
ii) Either with the consent of the Claimant or by the Judgement of the Court, settlement is done. This settlement can be done in 2 ways i.e., wholly in the form of Land or in half land and half money.
This Section lays down the way to deal with the claim of The Right of Pasture or Forest Produce. In the case of such a claim, The Forest Settlement Officer, either denies or accepts this Right wholly or partly, by way of issuing a notice.
According to this Section, there are some details which The Forest Settlement Officer has to take into account while issuing a notice under Section 12, which are as follows:
Father of the Claimant’s name
Caste of the Claimant
Address of the Claimant
Occupation of the Claimant
Designation of the Claimant
Position and Area / Group of all Fields
Designation of the Building
The following information is to be taken into account by the Forest Settlement Officer in compliance with this Section, if the permission is granted to the Claimant for the Right of Pasture or Forest Produce, according to Section 12:
Ø Regarding Pasturing Rights:
1. The amount of Cattle with a description of who will graze on the Claimed Land. (Constantly Modified with time)
2. The Season in which the cattle will be allowed to Pasture on the Claimed Land.
Ø Regarding Forest Produce Rights:
1. The amount of Timber or other Forest Produce which is permitted to be taken from the Reserved Forest. (Constantly Modified with time)
2. After obtaining the Forest Produce, whether it is being traded or sold.
3. Any other information may be required later.
After taking the information into account according to Section 14, an appropriate order has to be issued by the Forest Settlement Officer, in adherence with the demand of the claimant. To ensure that a justified order is being enforced, the following things can be done:
1. To facilitate easy access to the permitted pasturing area or Forest produce to the Claimant, Forest tracts can be established.
2. The frontiers of the Reserved Forest can be modified to cut off the claimed forest land according to the Claimant’s demand.
3. The permitted land can be given to the Claimant without altering the boundaries of the Reserved Forest according to the limitations laid down by the State Government.
According to this Section, there are 3 ways which will apply to a condition whereby the Claimant’s demand is not met in compliance with Section 15, to ensure proper maintenance of the Reserved Forest. These 3 ways are laid down by the State Government in the contract made with the Claimant and they are:
1. Compensating the Claimant with money in place of the claimed land.
2. Giving separate land as an alternative to the claimed land.
3. Reimbursement in any other way provided by the State Government.
If the Claimant is not satisfied by the order passed by the Forest Settlement Officer, in adherence with Sections 11, 12, 15 or 16, then such person can put forward an appeal in front of the Forest Settlement Officer, who then will transfer it to 3 authorities, as laid down in this Section:
1. Revenue Department Officer
2. Official in the same position as a Collector
3. Official empowered by the State Government to take up such appeals, by publishing in the Official Gazette.
Condition: The State Government has to establish a court (hereinafter regarded as Forest Court) of 3 assigned persons to deal with the appeals made by the claimants.
Such an Appeal can be filed within 15 Days of the issuance of such an order.
This Section deals with the procedure of filing the appeals of Section 17 and it is as follows:
1. The Petition of the appeal has to be in writing and is to be submitted to the Forest Settlement Officer, who then will further transfer it to one of the authorities, competent to deal with this appeal, mentioned in Section 17.
2. Such a petition is to be heard according to the procedure mentioned to deal with the petition related to land revenue.
3. If the petition is put up in Forest Court, then the method of dealing with such appeal, changes. In this condition, a day and place near to the claimed forest land is fixed by the Forest Court, by giving a notice to the Petitioner.
4. Only the State Government has the power to change the order passed by the Court or officials mentioned in Section 17, and its verdict is considered final.
According to this Section:
1. Any person, on behalf of the State Government or the Petitioner, can be assigned to deal with the appeal or appear respectively in the procedure of filing an appeal.
2. Such a person can appear in front of the Forest Settlement Officer and any other official or authority, mentioned in Section 17.
3. That person will be recognised as the Pleader.