Indian Forest Act,
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This article is written by Lavanya Gupta, from the school of Law, Ansal University. This is an exhaustive article which deals with various modes of execution under the Forest Right Act.

Introduction

The Rights of the Forest were not recorded for generations who were residing in such forest-dwelling in forest lands and the Act which recognizes the forest rights and some occupation with Schedule tribes and other traditional forests who provide a type of framework which record these forest rights and were vested like required evidence with recognition and vesting in respect of forest lands. These rights include responsibilities and authority of sustainable resources to conserve the maintenance and biodiversity of ecological strengthening and balance of conservation for livelihood and security of food regimes. 

The eviction order by the apex court was based on affidavits filed by the States. According to the Ministry of Tribal Affairs, up to September 30, 2018, 4.2 million individual and community resources claims were filed, of which, 1.9 million claims were rejected. It empowers the communities to use, manage, and govern forests for their livelihood as well as for the conservation and protection of forests. But its poor implementation remains an issue.

What is a Forest Right Act

To meet the economic needs the British diverted the abundant forest wealth of the Nation in the colonial era. The statues of the Indian Forest Act, 1927, were the rights of settlements that were provided by the procedure and were followed hardly. The communities of forest-dwelling and tribals have the living of forest in harmony to continue the living of the environment and ecosystem and the lives of plants and animals in the forest with the situation of tenurial insecurity that continued after the independence and were marginalized. The communities of forests and forest-dwelling have the relationship of the recognition of national forest policy, 1988. The associated tribal people need to be called for the policy of protection, development, and recognition of the forests. The Forest Rights Act, 2006, protects the marginal socio-economic class of citizens to balance the environment of their right to life and livelihood of those scheduled tribes and other traditional forest-dwellers.

Historical background

People of scheduled tribes on a large number have lived in and around the forests for a long period in the symbiotic relationships. These relationships were formalized and informal customary rules to use and extract the governed ethical beliefs and practices to ensure the forest to not get too degraded. The focus was shifted from the forest during colonial time and these forests were used as resources for commercial interests and the development of lands for agricultural use. The three forest acts of 1865, 1894, and 1927 of India have several policies of the central government of some state forest act which curtail the customary use and century-used rights to local communities. The enactment of these scheduled tribes and traditional forest-dwellers were continued after the independence with the recognition of the Forest Rights Act, 2006.  

Advantage of having the Forest Right Act

Forest conservation supports life on earth. The quality of water and air were maintained with the existence of essential life forms. Stability in the soil as possible by the plantation of trees to ensure the base of land, plants, and animals. The growth of biodiversity in terms of the wealth of food, medicines, and health of humans. The carbon sinks the absorption of carbon dioxide and then keeps global warming at the body. Forests influence climate and reduce extremes of temperature. They conserve soil and regulate moisture and streamflow. This prevents soil erosion and floods. The raw materials were also supplied from the forests to many industries like pulp-paper, newsprint, sawmilling, etc. the woods were also used as a source of house construction fuelwood. The export of teak, paper, natural resins, seeds, etc. was obtained by these forests and this is very essential provided by the forests. Forests are also becoming the revenue source in the form of royalty to the government at least of forest products. This also employs a large many people.

Disadvantage of having the Forest Right Act

The forest act gets converted into the property of the colonial department with the purpose of conversion of the ecosystem in someone’s property and gets stronger with the claims of this property than the conservation. The local forest officer gets bribed for the application of the committee in Delhi to destroy the forest today. There is a loss of 90 percent grasslands in India from the commercial forest plantation department. This destruction of five lakh hectares of forest was done for the industrial projects and mines or dams. The clearing of these forests for monoculture plantations by the department of forests to millions of hectares. The laws of forest get destroyed by all the communities without any management and regulation systems that existed before the choosing of abandoning the forest or living as a criminal was a force on people. This will become a criminal offence for everybody to plant a tree in reserved forests but for the department, it is legal to fall for the central government’s permission for so long. 

Why is the Forest Right Act important

The trees and plants are our land’s forest which covers the third surface of the earth and symbolizes the green colour with a common definition of the environment. The fundamental lifeforms provide the continuity of the world which is necessary for the biodiversity of economic development, diversified lifeforms, the livelihood of humans, and the adaptive responses of the environment. The important features of the environment were the reasons for daily lives in the forest. The main importance of forests was to stabilize the climate and regulate the cycle of water and provide thousands of life forms habitat. The significance of the importance of forest was leading below. The support given to forests from ecosystems and habitats were also supporting millions of plants and animals. Almost 90 percent of species live in the forest. The animals have a food chain in forests with each other and interact with their respective environments to create the ecosystem. Animal lives are flourishing critically in the Healthy Ecosystem. Millions of indigenous people live in the forest and depend on forest resources for survival. 

The watershed areas in the Forest Act with the regions and the approximate forest 

The derived tables in rivers, lakes, and streams in forests were the watershed areas. The protection from the sun’s radiation and drying by the forest through which streams and rivers run. The largest watershed and river system was provided by The Amazon in the whole world. The forest areas around the world serve significant watershed areas. 

Supports Biodiversity 

The genes of biodiversity served as reserve forests. They also support the life of the world’s endangered species.  

Purifies the Air 

The most important role was played by forest in the purification of the atmospheric air. Trees and plants absorb carbon dioxide for the process of photosynthesis and release oxygen in the daytime. The purification of air was breathed by us because of these forests. An instrumental tool was served to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses in the environment which is responsible for global warming. To stabilize the climate of the forest we serve the climate stabilizers to regulate the atmospheric temperatures of plants and trees through the process of evaporation and environmental breeze. The presence of trees can reduce the dependence in urban settings on air conditioners. To regulate the regional temperatures in large forests by the sun’s radiance from heat to promote rainfall and cool climate as an effect of evaporation.

Soil enrichment

The soil nutrients will get recycled with the help of plants and trees through their shedding of leaves and branches. The roots of plants and trees break the soil into fine particles and water infiltration into the soil. The water was absorbed by the roots from the surface runoff to reduce the speed of flow and the soil erosion will minimize which normally degrades the fertility of the soil. 

Regulates the Water Cycle

The natural cycle of forest regulated water evaporation and subsequent condensation with the precipitation as rain. The possible make of forest by absorption and redistribution of rainwater equally across the geographical coverage which is termed as the water economy. A considerable amount of water was also absorbed by the forest from runoff and then passed down in the aquifers with the replenishment of groundwater supplies. 

The visits to forest areas by tourists are very beautiful scenes in the wildlife with inhabiting the forest of hosting nations and various communities to get the revenue from this tourism. These forests also became the source for rare animals like rabbits and vegetables/foods like some berries, tubers, and mushrooms to grow on forest floors. 

Some related Acts and Provision

There are three Provisions and Acts which defines the Forest Rights Act, 2006:

Wildlife protection Act, 1972

The Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 was enacted by the government with an effective objective to protect the wildlife of the country to control the poaching, smuggling, and illegal trade in wildlife and derivatives. In January 2003 the Act was amended and the punishments and penalties of offences under the Act which were more stringent have been made. Some further amendments were proposed by the ministry in the laws by introducing rigid measures to strengthen the Act. providing protection is the objective to listen to the endangered flora and fauna with ecologically protected areas. 

1988 National Forest Policy

The policy aims at maintaining the stability of the environment. The conservancy of the natural heritage of the country to remain in natural forest. The increase in forest and trees were covered in the country through massive afforestation and forestry in the social programs. The massive creation of a movement of people achieves the objects and minimizes the forest existence.  

The Provisions of the Panchayats (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act 1996 (PESA)

The tradition and much different perseverance and safeguard customs of people with a different culture, resources of the community, and mode of dispute resolution with some customs. This empowers the appropriate level of gram sabha/panchayats with mandatory rights of consultation in the acquisition of land and the displaced persons with rehabilitation. The alienation was reduced in tribal areas as PESA will have better control over the utilization of public resources. This helps the exploitation of the tribal populations and able to control the lending of money and manage the controls of consumption and liquor sales with markets of the village. PESA looks to preserve the traditions to promote cultural heritage, customs, and cultural identity of tribal populations.

Challenges 

There were many challenges which were faced by the forest act to work efficiently for the improvement and rehabilitation and protection of species of plants and animals from getting extinct are: 

Administrative Apathy

The Acts remain the biggest challenge in the implementation as the Acts related to the environment are not entirely compliant with the law or illegal encroachments that have claimed to be rejected unfairly. The big vote banks in states were not tribals and the governments to subvert the Forest Right Act (FRA) conveniently in favour of monetary gains.

Lack of Awareness

The forest officials at lower levels were unaware of the help of forest rights processes to claim its high majority to get aggrieved with the population to remain with dark regarding their rights. The bureaucracy of the forest has misinterpreted the forest rights act to regulate the encroachment of welfare and its measures for tribals as an instrument.  

Dilution of Act

The sections in the raise of environmentalists’ concern about the FRA bends in the favour of individual rights to give less scope for community rights. The effective community rights of local people control forest resources with a significant portion of the forest to make states wary with revenue of forest rights to gram sabha.

The reluctance of the forest bureaucracy to give up control

The deliberate sabotage by the forest bureaucracy for both centres and states to some extent by big corporations there. The fear of forest bureaucracy lost enormous power over land and people of current joys with the corporates to have the fear of losing cheat access over valuable natural resources.

Landmark judgment

Smt Sadhna Sharma vs J D A Jaipur And Ors

The three-judge bench of the Supreme court on February 13th, 2019 was headed by the judgment by Justice Arun Mishra on an extreme issue which is important order in the Writ petition 109 of 2008 to ensure the protection of forests on the severe effect on forests due to the ineligible claimants under the Forest Right Act (FRA) and the name in records of this case is Smt Sadhna Sharma vs J D A Jaipur And Ors on 20 April 2010. These claimants continued to occupy the huge area of forestland which includes National Parks and Sanctuaries with their claims which have been rejected after the due verification and the process of appeal. The Nature Conservation Society and Tiger Research and Conservation Trust along with the wildlife were the petitioners in this matter who presented the facts of keys regarding this case since there appears to be a lot of misunderstanding in the media on the latest orders of the Supreme Court. 

From the hearing of Sr. Advocate Shyam Divan and Advocate-On-Record, PK Manohar with a great deal considered the magnitude of bogus claims and the process of never-ending verification of the Supreme Court passed the orders which contain the following key directions up to 17 States. These States filed the affidavits which admit the quantum claims which were rejected with the add up of 11,91,327. The FRA is the law which meant for the recognition of the pre-existence of forest rights only and the land granted or the distribution of land act. The people who only have the actual occupation of forestland as on 13th December 2005 were eligible as per the law. 

The claims were granted under the land with some provisions of the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006. The claims were divided by the Schedule Tribes and separated by the traditional forest dwellers. The State Government rejected the claims of each category and the land over these claims were made and rejected by each category. The action against these claimants was rejected as claims. The eviction status of the claimants has been rejected and extended totally by the area from which the eviction has been done. The area in respect of eviction was not taken to an extended area of claims.

The belongings of other traditional forest dwellers people came in the category with the bulk of claims and got established with the continuous occupation of 75-years of eligibility. The FRA was enacted in 2006 as per the September 2018 statement of the Ministry of Tribal Affairs (MoTA) with the total claim of 42 lakh over the forestlands which include National Parks and Sanctuaries and was filed by the tribal people and the other traditional forest dwellers(OTFD) which came under a nebulous category of people who were not defined in the Constitution. The analysis of the official data reveals the total of 18,89,835 titles which were granted and the massive 72,23,132 with 72,000 sq km of the public forest land was granted and converted to the individual and community ownership in pieces across the country. From the loss of forests, the wide-ranging was granted by the rights in the scattered parcels of the forestland which is cursing a deleterious impact of habitat in the form of fragmentation or breaking up the large forest blocks into some smaller pieces. The scientific fragmentation was established by the most serious threat to the long-term conservation of forest and biodiversity. Due to the process prescribed under the law with the level of appeal with a total of 19,34,345 and claims stand rejected on 30th September 2018 as per the MoTA statement which has an individual claim of 18,88,066.

The claims were rejected by gram sabha itself with the said statement with the number of 14,77,793. The statement of MoTA does not provide the actual data on the extent of the forestland which is occupied by the rejected claimants and was estimated in the area which could be more than 19 lakh by applying the average area approved to an individual claim. The independent agencies including the Saxena Committee which were appointed by MoTA and appointed by TERI by the Maharashtra Government for the Gujarat Government by the Bhaskaracharya Institute of Space applications with already cleaned documents fresh forest lands without cut-off by satellites in imaginary analysis in 2005.

 The imagery evidence of satellite forest encroachment has been considered by the CAG and was accepted by the Supreme Court and High Court as well in many other cases. The National Parks and Sanctuaries were protected by the sensitive habitats of highly endangered wildlife and to which we occupy just less than 5% of India’s landscape and one salutary clause was also included in FRA. The notification provides the National parks and Sanctuarieswere critical wildlife habitats from where people can be resettled. Even 72 lakh of forestlands were granted under FRA since 2008 and critical welfare habitat was ignored to one hectare and had not been notified yet. 

Orissa Mining Corporation Case

To save Niyamgiri, an initiative was taken by the Indigenous Dongria Kondhs’ of the sacred landscape from the proposed mining project by the multinational company which is arguably the most inspiring story of the Forest Right Act that can be the rights-based tool to ensure the projection effectively of Indigenous peoples’ and local communities’ rights to strengthen the governance community over these natural resources. The Apex court to the State of Odisha was directed with issues concerning the cultural and religious rights before Gram Sabha of Dongaria Kondh Tribe under the Panchayat (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act (PESA) and constituted for the determination of cultural and religious right issues to provide the decision and consider the approve stage of two of the forest clearance in the requirement of ushered Ministry of Environment and Forest (MoEF) for Orissa Mining Corporation (OMC) and the Sterlite Industry’s Bauxite Mining Project at Niyamgiri Hills

The provisions were relied upon by the Forest Rights Act and PESA by the Apex Court which is observed under certain obligations in the provisions of the Forest Right Act to preserve and safeguard the traditions, customs, cultural identity, and resources of communities of Schedule Tribe and Traditional Dwellers. The Court also took note of the provisions of PESA that provide the extension of the Act to Scheduled areas for the preservation of traditional communities and assemblies to protect and safeguard these traditions and customs of the tribal communities and mode of dispute resolution. The Apex court also pronounced the landmark judgment to not to upheld the recognized rights of Schedule Tribe and traditional forest dwellers to have been marginalized in the wake of developing the projects but also recognized the importance of big infrastructure projects not only provide the platform for the development but also provide the employment and don’t disregard completely in the view of the rights. The customary rights and cultural rights of local communities were upheld in this judgment in the Niyamgiri Hills following the Forest Right Act, PESA, and the provisions of the constitution with cultural habitats and cultural rights to protect and preserve the authorities of Gram Sabhas.

Conclusion

In this article, I have explained the Rights of the Forest Act and also the drawbacks faced by this Act to protect the wildlife and plant species from getting extinct. The rights of the forest were not recorded for generations who were residing in such forest-dwelling in forest lands and the act which recognizes the forest rights and some occupation with Schedule tribes and other traditional forests who provide a type of framework which record these forest rights and were vested like required evidence with the respect of forest lands in recognition and vesting. The main importance of forests was to stabilize the climate and regulate the cycle of water and provide thousands of life forms habitat. The support given to forests from ecosystems and habitats were also supporting millions of plants and animals. The bureaucracy of the forest has misinterpreted the forest rights act to regulate the encroachment of welfare and its measures for tribals as an instrument. We have to see upon the act seriously and start saving our forest from extinction and to provide a great living in future lives. 

References 


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