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Aravali Hills: Forest Conservation Act 2023 'Unconstitutional’? [Read Petition]

By Mahima Katal      20 March, 2024 06:38 PM      0 Comments
Aravali Hills Forest Conservation Act 2023 Unconstitutional

New Delhi:  The Supreme Court issued notice to Ministry of Tribal Affairs, National Commission for Scheduled Tribes and the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change on a plea challenging the constitutionality of the recent amendments to the Forest (Conservation) Act.   

The Bench comprising of Justice Abhay Oka and Justice Ujjawal Bhuyan was hearing a Writ Petition under Article 32 of the Constitution filed by Aravalli Bachao Citizen Movement. 

The petition focuses on the fact that the FCA Amendment is contrary to the provision of the Forest Rights Act. It is contended that the Amendment Act violates the right to life, livelihood, and dignity of forest dwelling communities: The Forest Rights Act (FRA), 2006 vests forest rights on forest dwelling Scheduled Tribes and other traditional forest dwellers.

The main contention of the petitioners is that the Amendment Act is a regressive legal step, since it places primacy on the legal status of the land in order to decide whether the area is a forest or not. At a time when globally there is increased recognition of the ‘Rights of Nature’, the Amendment Act is based on the colonial concept of ownership and legal recognition in order to afford protection.

Also Read -  Illegal mining in Aravallis: "Vehicles carrying minor minerals are required to be equipped with GPS," says NGT

One of the main grounds for challenge is that the Amendment Act, 2023 is based on a fictitious idea that the Indian Forest Act, 1927 and similar other legislation provide for notifying ‘forests’: whereas neither the IFA, 1927 nor similar State Acts provide for notifying forests. There is no procedure contemplated in any of the forest laws for notifying a forest. Further, it rewards States that have failed to implement the order of Supreme Court.

Although there is no statutory requirement that all forests need to be notified and declared, all states were required to ‘identify’ all areas which satisfy the meaning of the term ‘forest’ in view of Supreme Court’s order dated 12.12.1996 in T.N. Godavarman case. Although, some states have made progress in the identification of forests, many have not.

“It is thus clear that despite the Central Government being aware that the process of identification is not yet completed, it has excluded large areas of ‘to be identified’ deemed forest from the purview of the Act,” Aravalli Bachao Citizens Movement stated.

[Read Petition] 

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