There can be no doubt that forests and forestry are subjects of prime importance for a country and the public interest. The Indian Forest Act, 1927 was enacted after repealing the Indian Forest Act, 1878 for the purpose of consolidating the law relating to forests, the transit of forest produce and the duty leviable on timber and other forest produce. This Act is an important piece of the Central legislation and various State enactments have made amendments to suit their local requirements and some of the States have enacted their own full scale forests Acts.
The Indian Forest Act was enacted to preserve and safeguard the forests generally in India. The Act makes various provisions for such conservation of forests and in the scheme it provides for a State Government to constitute any forest lands or waste lands, which are property of Government over which the Government have proprietary rights, a reserved forest.
The Act deals with the subject in 13 Chapters. Chapter 1 deals with short title and extent of the Act. Chapter II of the Act deals with the subject of reserved forests. Chapter III deals with village forests. Chapter IV deals with protected forests. Chapter V deals with forest and lands not being the property of Government. Chapter VI deals with imposition of duty on timber and other forest produce by the Central Government. Chapter VII deals with control over timber and other forest produce in transit. Section 41 confers on the State Government the power to make rules to regulate the transit of forest produce.
The object of Chapter VIII of the Act is to regulate the rights of owner in drift and stranded timber. Chapter IX deals with penalty and procedure and recognize that some forest produce may, in the first instance, not be the property of the Government. Chapter X of the Act deals with applicability of the Cattle Trespass Act, 1871 in a reserved forest or in any portion of a protected forest which has been lawfully closed to grazing. Chapter X also deals with the power of the State Government to issue notification in respect of lines. Chapter XI deals with the powers and duties of the Forest Officer. Chapter XII empowers the State Government to make subsidiary rules. Chapter XIII deals with moral duties of the citizen to help Forest Officers and Police Officers in carrying out their duties with the purview of the Act. This chapter deals with other miscellaneous matters also.
In this manner the Act contemplates the protection of forest land under certain conditions, whether they be reserved forests, village forests, protected forests or forest of private owners.
Although the Indian Forest Act deals specifically with (i) reserved forests; (ii) village forest, viz., reserved forest which have been assigned to any village community; and (iii) protected forests. The preamble and other provisions of the Forest Act are wide enough to cover all categories of forests. This Act is one curtailing proprietary rights of individuals and so the Act and the notifications issued under it must be construed strictly where the rights of individuals are trenched upon.
Any person commits any of the following offences, namely:-
- Fells, girdles, lops, taps or burns any tree reserved under Section 30, or strips off the bark or leaves from, or otherwise damages, any such trees.
- Contrary to any prohibition under Section 30, quarries any stone or burns any lime or charcoal, or collects, subjects to any manufacturing process, or removes, any forest produce.
- Contrary to any prohibition under Section 30, breaks up or clears for cultivation or any purpose any land in any protected forest.
- Sets, fire to such forest, or kindles a fire without taking all reasonable precaution to prevent its spreading to any tree reserved under Section 30,, whether standing, fallen on felled or two any such trees or closed portion of such forest.
- Leaves burning any fire kindled by him in the vicinity of any such trees or closed portion.
- Fells any tree of drags any timber so as to damage any tree reserved as aforesaid.
- Permits cattle to damage any such tree; and
- Infringes any rule made under Section 32.
Shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year or with fine which may extend to one thousand rupees, or with both.
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