Control of Timber
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This article is written by Arush Mittal from Hidayatullah National Law University. This is an exhaustive article which deals with Forest Laws and the laws governing the control of timber and other forest produce.


Forest is one of the essential natural resources available in India which covers around one-third of the world’s total area. This Act states that every citizen in India has the right to protect and develop the natural environment like lakes, rivers, forests and wildlife and should show kindness towards living creatures. Forest is defined as an area occupied by the government for the conservation and management of biological and ecological resources. Forests have been utilized recklessly for cultivation and destroyed for the consumption of timber and other forest produce. 

Timber products are generally those wooden trees whose height is up to 20cm. Timber usually produces chairs, tables and other wooden furniture. Other Forest Produce includes medicinal leaves and every other biodiversity that exists in a forest environment. This dire need for legislation regulating the forest was met by the Indian Forest Act, 1927 which mainly imposed governmental control over forests classifying them into reserved, protected and village forests. The Indian Forest Act, 1927 was a comprehensive legislation that incorporated all the pre-existing laws enacted to protect the forest such as the legislation in 1865 during the British rule and the amendment of 1878 aimed at improving the deficiencies in the legislation of 1865.

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Indian Forest Act, 1927

After India gained its Independence, forests were put in the state list of the Indian Constitution but forest departments of individual states continued to regulate activities related to forest in accord with the Indian Forest Act, 1927. This Act gives jurisdiction to the state over the public as well as over private forests and also facilitates the extraction of timber for profit. To improve the Forest Act, 1875 and make laws relating to forest more effective, a comprehensive, new Forest Act was passed in 1927 called the Indian Forest Act, 1927 which repealed all the previous laws. This Act consists of 86 Sections in total divided into 13 Chapters ranging from the definition of various forests to the penalties that are to be levied on violation of the terms and conditions of the Act.

The main objectives of this Act are- to consolidate the laws relating to forests, regulate and transit forest produce and to levy duty on timber and other forests produce. Forest has not been defined under this Act. The Allahabad High Court, in the case of Yashwant Stone Works vs State Of Uttar Pradesh And Ors, 1987, adopted the definition given by the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) while defining the term. According to the FAO, the forest is a land that bears vegetative association that is demarcated by trees of any size which are capable of producing wood or other products related to food. The term forest has a wider ambit and the Act does not actually define the term therefore the Supreme Court is yet to assign a particular definition to this term.

This Act has various sections which deal with the laws governing the control of timber and other forest produce, some of the laws regarding the same are as follows:

Power to impose a duty on timber and other forest-produce

This is covered under Section 39 of the Indian Forest Act, 1927 which is divided into four parts. The first part mainly deals with the Central Government levying a duty on all timber or other forest produce that is either produced in the territories to which this Act extends or that product is brought from someplace which is outside the territorial boundaries of this Act. The second part mainly talks about those cases where the duty is directed to be levied ad valorem. The third part deals with the duty on those timber and forest produce which is levied under the authority of the state government. The final part of this Section says that the state government may continue to levy duty which is lawful until provision to the contrary is made by the Parliament.

Limit not applicable to purchase-money or royalty

Section 40 of the Indian Forest Act, 1927 says that, in this Act, nothing is supposed to limit the amount that is chargeable as royalty or as purchase money on timber or other forest produce. Although this may be levied on such timber and other forest produce while they are in transit.

Power to make rules regulating the transit of forest-produce

Section 41 of the Indian Forest Act, 1927 talks about the rules to regulate the transit of forest produce. This Section is divided into three parts. The first part says that the state government has all the power to control all rivers and their banks for the transit of such timber and forest produce. The second part deals with various aspects such as- prescribing routes providing for issue, production and return of passes, prohibiting import or export of timber without a pass, providing for the establishment of and regulation of depot, etc. The third part says that the state government can say that this particular rule does not apply to a certain class of timber or other forest produce. It may also be for a specified local area.

Powers of Central Government as to movements of timber

Section 41A of the Indian Forest Act, 1927 is in relation to Section 41. This Section says that the Central Government makes the rules for deciding the route by which timer or other forest produce would be imported or exported. It also includes the movement of timber or other forest produce among the territories to which the particular Act extends.

Penalty for breach of rules

Section 42 of the Indian Forest Act, 1927 provides the penalties to the breach of rules as provided in Section 41 of the Act. The first part of this Section states that the state government may, on the breach of rules, provide for imprisonment that would be a year-long or fine that would be maximum up to Rupees one thousand . The penalties mentioned in the first part of the act get doubled if the offender resists the police authorities or where that particular offender had been convicted before for a similar kind of offence.

Forest-officers not liable for damage to forest produce at the depot 

This is covered under Section 43 of the Indian Forest Act, 1927 which says that the Government is not responsible for any damage caused or loss taking place which is in relation to the timber or other forest produce while at depot established under a rule made in Section 41. A forest officer would not be liable unless he has caused such damage or loss negligently, fraudulently or maliciously.

All persons bound to aid in case of an accident at the depot

Section 44 of the Indian Forest Act, 1927 talks about the case in which an accident or emergency has arisen which involves danger to any property at such depot. Every person at such a depot employed either by the government or any private person should provide assistance to the forest officer or the police officer if they demand his aid in averting such danger.
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Other Acts related to Forest Laws and the Laws governing Control of Timber and Other Forest Produce

Other than the Indian Forest Act, 1927, there are various Acts which deal with the laws governing the control of timber and other forest produce. Some of the Acts other than the Indian Forest Act, 1927 are:

Forest Conservation Act, 1980

In 1980, the Parliament enacted a legislation called the Forest Conservation Act, 1980 with the main aim to provide for the conservation of forests and for matters ancillary to it. The transfer of forests from State List to Concurrent List of the Constitution gave power to the central government to manage India’s forest directly. This Act seems to be a small piece of legislation that has only 5 Sections but, it has been extremely effective in conserving forests. What led to the framing of this Act was the large-scale deforestation. The basic objective of this Act is to regulate the indiscriminate diversion of forest lands for non-forestry uses and maintain a logical balance between the conservation of natural heritage and development of the needs of the country. 

Diversion of forest land is allowed by the Act only for certain purposes. These purposes include drinking water projects, irrigation projects, railway lines, defence-related projects, transmission lines, roads, power projects, mining, etc. This Act prohibited state governments from allowing the use of forest lands for any other purposes without prior approval from the central government. It was amended in 1988 and 2003 which regulated the diversion of any forest land to non-forest land and included a provision compensatory afforestation in non-forest areas. This Act is applicable to the whole of India. It came into power on October 25, 1980, and on this day the Forest Conservation Ordinance was also broadcasted.

Compensatory Afforestation Management and Planning Authority (CAMPA), 2009

This Authority was incorporated in 2009 under the Chairmanship of Union Minister of Environment and Forest. It was created to monitor, provide technical assistance and evaluate activities that are in relation to afforestation. This is meant to promote the activities of afforestation so that these forest lands can be promoted for the use of its land. An amount of 5 billion US Dollars was constituted as the fund by the Supreme Court. The main utilization of these funds was towards compensatory afforestation.

Some of the aims and objectives of this scheme are:

  • Conservation, regeneration, protection and management of natural forest.
  • Environmental services including non material benefits, provision of goods such as wood and non-timber products and regulation of services such as climate regulation.
  • Compensatory afforestation.
  • Capacity building, training and research.

A few functions of the CAMPA 2006 are:

  • Promoting and funding compensatory afforestation under the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980.
  • Making and maintaining an account for funds received for protection and conservation of protected areas.
  • Overseeing the protection works that are financed by the scheme and also forest and wildlife conservation.
  • Creation of transparency for the scheme and mobilization of citizen support.
  • Laying down guidelines for the state CAMPA.
  • Making recommendations to the state CAMPA for any assistance that might be required.

The Biological Diversity Act, 2002

The Biological Diversity Act, 2002 is an Act passed by the Parliament of India to preserve the biological diversity in India and provide a mechanism for sharing of benefits equally that arise out of the use of traditional biological resources. The main reason why this act was enacted was to meet the obligations under the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), to which India is a party. It was formed after an extensive and intensive consultation process. Some of the salient features of this Act are:

  • To conserve the use of biological diversity.
  • To regulate access to biological resources of the country.
  • Setting up of the National Biodiversity Authority, State Biodiversity Board and Biodiversity Management Committees.
  • To protect and respect the traditional knowledge of the local communities related to biodiversity.
  • To protect and rehabilitate threatened species.
  • To notify heritage sites by the state government in consultation with the local body.

The Forest Policy of 1988 

The National Forest Policy of 1988 broadly focused on environmental stability, preservation of biological diversity and restoration of ecological balance which also included checking soil erosion and increasing tree cover. Some of the basic objectives of this policy are as follows:

  • Conservation of natural heritage of the country by preserving the remaining natural forests.
  • Maintenance of environmental stability through preservation and restoration of ecological balance.
  • Increase in the productivity of forests to meet the essential needs of the country.
  • Checking soil erosion for the interest of the soil and water conservation.
  • Encouragement of efficient utilization of forest produce.
  • Maximization of substitution wood.

Joint Forest Management

Joint Forest Management which is often abbreviated as JFM is the official term for partnerships in the forest movement in India that involves state forest departments as well as local communities. The National Forest Policy of 1988 and the Joint Forest Management Guidelines of 1990 contains all the policies and objectives of the Joint Forest Movement. The villagers agree to assist in safeguarding the forest resources and in exchange, they get non-timber forest produce and a share of the revenue from the sale of timber products. Some importance of JFM are: 

  • Fulfil basic requirements and supplement income from agriculture and wage labor.
  • Achieve significant volumes of timber for valuable production.
  • Managing forest and other forest produce.
  • Adding value to timber and other forests produce at the local level.

National Afforestation Program, 2006

This program began in the year 2006. The main aim of this scheme was to support the development of forest management. It also focuses on the decentralization of institutions at the village level and at the forest division level. These institutions include the Joint Forest Management Committee and the Forest Development Agency. It also aims at the development of forest resources with a focus to improve the livelihood of the poor people who belong to the forest. A lot of initiatives have been taken under this scheme such as:

  • Transfer of electronic funds from the Government to the FDAs for cutting down delays.
  • Evaluation and monitoring of the FDA projects.
  • Universalization of JFM in all forest-fringe villages.
  • Developmental programmes for enhancing the sustainability of JFM.

National Mission for a Green India

The National Mission for a Green India is a 10-year plan that aims to improve the quality of the degraded forests. The aim is to improve the five million hectares of forest cover and replace it with a better forest cover. This was to be done by social and farm forestry. Funds of Rs. 13,000 crore was allocated for the restoration of forests under this Scheme. This was allocated by the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs in 2014. Some of the Goals of GIM are as follows:

  • Increasing the forest tree cover.
  • Improvement in the quality of the forest cover.
  • Afforestation of cold deserts, mangroves, scrub, shifting cultivation areas and abandoned mining areas.
  • Restoration of wetlands and grasslands.
  • To increase the forest based livelihood income.

ST and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006

The Act was passed in India on December 18, 2006. It has been called by various names such as Tribal Bill, Forest Rights Act, Tribal Land Act and Tribal Rights Act. This act deals with the right of those communities that dwell in the forest. It talks about those rights that have been denied to them over decades. It tends to make provisions that would make conservation of forest more transparent and effective. There has been a lot of controversy on this law which says that this Act would lead to forest destruction and therefore it should be repealed. Some of the basic rights as laid down in this Act are:

  • Right of ownership to collect, dispose and use minor forest produce that included the non-timber forest produce.
  • Right to live in the forest for livelihood who is a member of the forest dwelling ST or other traditional forest dweller.
  • Community tenures of habitat and other primitive tribal groups.
  • Right over disputed lands where claims are disputed.
  • Right of conversion of old habitation, forest villages and unsurveyed villages.
  • Right to protect and conserve community forest resources for sustainable use.
  • Right of access to intellectual property and access to biodiversity. 


The Indian Forest Act, 1927 was enacted with the intention to deal with the lacunae in the previous acts that were related to the laws of the forest. This act was a revised comprehensive legislation. Sustainable management of forest resources falls within the scope of responsibilities of the Central and state governments. This Act provides the overarching legal framework for the protection and management of the nation’s forest resources. The Forest Act requires amendment in the matters where the focus should be shifted towards conservation and enrichment of the use of forest resources to safeguard the ecological stability as proposed in the amendment bill of 2019 that brings some remarkable changes in the Act of 1927. The accounting of various ecosystem goods and services provided by forests should be done properly to access the actual contribution of forests to the Indian economy. The judiciary should take some normative steps to deal with the cases relating to forest laws.

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