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This article is written by Gitika Jain pursuing BBA.LLB(Hons) from Amity University, Kolkata. This is an exhaustive article which deals with the laws that govern the rules of the Indian Forest Act.


Before diving deep into the topic of Indian Forest Act and the subsidiary rules related to it we must know what the term forest is. A forest is a territorial ecosystem where the interaction of all the communities of plants and animals with one another and with the physical environment happens. Different countries have different forest covers which depend on factors such as the availability of land, population density, climate etc. Forests are natural renewable resources. In order to maintain the quality of the global environment, forests are important since the benefits of forests include wood, timber, manure for order and other non-timber forest products like fruits, flowers, services like moderating the hydrological cycle, soil conservation, mitigation, adding intangible value such as aesthetic recreational and spiritual values.

There has been no doubt that millions depend on forests. India occupies 2.4 % of the world area with the seventh-largest country in the world and is home to only 1.8 % of the forest covers. Though regular activities are being conducted under CAMPA (compensatory afforestation management and planning authority) in order to increase forest through reforestation but still India’s forest cover is in a devastating condition with only 21% of India under forest cover (state of forest report 2019 release by Union Minister of environment and forest). There are several factors due to which forest covers in India are decreasing at an alarming rate, they are, conversion of forest land for the non-forestry purpose, expanding agriculture and other illegal activities such as illegal logging and unauthorised occupation of forest land, etc. Forests are also a means of generating revenue for any state by supplying forest products and various services. 

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Legal perspective

The Indian Forest Act 1927 is comprehensive legislation that includes all the pre-existing laws to protect forests. The first legislation related to the forest was however enacted in the year 1865 during the British rule and later on, there were amendments happening all around. The preamble of the Indian Forest Act aims to regulate the transit of the forest produce, levy a duty on timber and other forest produce, and consolidate all the existing laws related to the forest. All the previous laws that were passed regarding the forest before 1920 were consolidated and made one Act that is the Indian Forest Act 1927. Before 1976 all the forest and wildlife subjects were under State in the Indian Constitution. But after the 42nd amendment of the Constitution, the subject of forest and wildlife was deleted from the state list and they were placed in the concurrent list bringing the subjects under the purview of both the Central and the State government. The new amendment also brought a new directive principle of State Policy, Article 48A and the fundamental duty 51A(g) in order to protect and improve the forest. The changes were important in order to protect the forest and the environment. It is not the responsibility of any particular country instead every country in the world has equal responsibility for it. After doing all the research on the aspects of the Indian Forest Act 1927 high-level committee of Subramanyam submitted its report in November 2014. 


In the year 1927, the Indian Forest Act 1878 was replaced by the British government and a new Act was brought into place. The main purpose of this Act was to conserve the forest strength and the laws related to forest and increase the productivity of the forest. This has been one of the most important laws passed by the central government and state government that may bring changes according to some extent. There are other provisions that are included in this Act, that is to convert non-agricultural land into forest land. Indian Forest Act 1927 contains 13 Chapters which describe a forest into three categories that are reserved forest, conserved forest and village forest. Article 2 of the Act contains the provision to increase the productivity of the forest and Article 26 is related to analyzing any illegal Activities related to the forest. 


The main objective of this Act was to preserve and safeguard the forest. Besides this there are few more objectives:

  • To maintain the quality of water in the water bodies like lakes and streams.
  • To balance the impact of cultivation and other forest activities.
  • To aim for expansion of Activities in the forest by sharing of the public and other communities in the forest to take part in activities that help improve the condition of the forest.
  • To inform everyone about the efficient use of forest resources.
  • To ensure high productivity of forests and saving the resources of the forest by afforestation, etc.
  • To introduce advanced programs that help in increasing the area of forest.
  • to make the management of the forest better by appointing efficient resource professionals and conducting training and educational programs for them.
  • To ensure long-term harvest levels with the minimum usage of the forest resources. 
  • To balance the distribution of wildlife, nature and habitats and conserve biological diversity by development and implementation.
  • To make efficient use of the advanced programs that expand the practice of forestry.
  • To improve the research technology associated with the forests.


  • To make efficient use of the profits that are derived from the Activities of forest management and to take care of forests annually.
  • To make forest land so unique that it has natural benefits and various diversity of habitats in wildlife.
  • To save the forest from fire or other harmful chemicals. 
  • to keep up increasing productivity and improving the forest land in the long run.
  • To save the water bodies of the forest.
  • To ensure that the statutory rules and regulations related to the environmental laws are being followed properly.
  • To ensure that after reforestation proper productivity is being maintained in the forest land.

Salient features

The Act has 13 Chapters.

  1. Chapter 1 deals with the title and the extent of the Act;
  2. Chapter 2 deals with the subject of reserve forests;
  3. Chapter 3 deals with village forest;
  4. Chapter 4 deals with protected forest;
  5. Chapter 5 deals with the lands and forests that are not the property of the government;
  6. Chapter 6 deals with imposing a duty on any forest produce by the central government;
  7. Chapter 7 deals with controlling any forest produce in transit;
  8. Similarly, the object of Chapter eight is to regulate the right of the owner of timber or any forest produce;
  9. Chapter 9 provides the penalty and procedure in case of any illegal activity;
  10. Chapter 10 deals with the application of cattle trespass Act 1871. Chapter 10 deals with the power of state government to notify in respect of lines;
  11. Chapter 11 provides us the powers and duties of forest officers;
  12. Chapter 12 provides the state government power to make subsidiary rules;
  13. Chapter 13 deals with the duties of the citizen to help the forest officers to carry out their duties smoothly and effectively.

There is another Act called the Forest Conservation Act 1980 that is applicable to the whole of India and that also includes Jammu and Kashmir. It officially came into force on 25th October 1980.

Features of Indian Forest Amendment Act 2019

The main objective of the cemented Act is to give power to the forest officers through equipment and weapons to protect themselves and the forests as well. Under CrPC 1973 the power of officers is to initiate any kind of search and issue search warrants and take Actions on the spot and enter promises of the forest area under their jurisdiction. In case of emergency, the forest officers are even allowed to use firearms and other weapons for self-defence. 

Reserved forests

Reserve forests are covered under Chapter 2 of the Act from Section 3 to 27. Reserve forest includes any forest land or wasteland that is under the ownership of the government. Since the government are the owners of these lands they have proprietary rights over them and the use of these lands are not open to the local people without the permission of the government. after the government issues notice under Section 4 of the Act that a particular portion of the land has to be declared as a reserved forest since then that area of land is marked a Reserved Forest. There are certain activities such as grazing, tree felling, morning hunting, etc, in the forests that are prohibited under Section 26 of the Indian Forest Act 1927. The penalty of the above activities is provided under Section 26 that is imprisonment for a term which may extend to 2 years and a fine which may extend to 20000 but not less than 5000. 

Village forest

Chapter 3 Section 28 of the Indian forest Act deals with the provisions of the village forest. when the reserved forests are provided by the government for the usage of the village community that particular land is considered as a village forest land. The regulation of the management of these forests is under the state governments. The two terms village forest and forest village are used in place of each other but Actually the whole different. Village forest under the Indian Forest Act is a legal category and forest village is an administrative category. The land given to village forests is included under Village Grazing Reserve (VGR). 

Protected forests

The land other than reserved forests over which the government has proprietary rights is termed as a protected forest which is empowered by the State Government. Chapter 4 Section 29 deals with the provisions of protected forests. In the case of Protected Forest, the rules regarding the use of the forests are given by the government. The government has the right to reserve specific trees in the protected forest because those particular trees house revenue earning capacity and are required to be protected for the benefits of the economy. The provisions of Chapter 5 deals with non-government forest or private forest which are not under the control of the government. However in exceptional cases to preserve public health and wellness the state government can pass an order for clearing of land. 


Subsidiary rules

Under Chapter 12 of the Act Section 76, there are additional powers of the state government to make subsidiary rules to provide a limitation to the duties and powers of forest officers, regulate the amount of the reward to be paid to the informers and of the resource under this Act out of the proceeds of fines and confiscation, to generally carry out the provisions of this Act and to preserve reproduce and dispose of the trees and timbers belonging to the government that are grown on the land of private persons.

Drawbacks of Indian forest amendment Act 2019

The Indian Forest Amendment Act 2019 has been criticized by many environmental experts, non-governmental organisations and communities living in the forest. According to experts, the amendment Act can be influenced by any private organisation and forest officers. The main drawback of this amendment Act was that the forest officers could fire anyone in the name of conservation of forest. This power given by the amendment Act was very much similar to that of the Arms Act. Thus giving such excessive powers to the forest officers could be dangerous since they can misuse it against people who are uneducated and unaware of the laws and the provisions. By adding few land areas as forest land and removing the previous land areas the livelihood of tribal people living in that area would be affected greatly. 


It can be concluded that the amendment of Indian Forest Act 1927 was not relevant enough for today’s scenario but the amendment can for sure be brought carefully so that it suits the best interest of the tribal people.


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