The Forest Conservation Act was passed in 1980 to provide for the conservation of forests and tor matters connected therewith. The Act extends in whole of India except the State of Jammu & Kashmir and is in force from 25th October 1980.
The Act which was subsequently amended in 1988 (69 of 1988) have the following sections:
1. Extent and commencement.
2. Restriction on the conservation of forests of use of forest land for non-forest purpose.
3. Constitution of advisory committee.
(A) Penalty for conservation of Act.
(B) Offences by authorities and government departments.
4. Power to make rules.
5. Repeal and saving.
Sections 3 (A) and 3 (B) were added through the amendments of 1988, which deal with penalty for conservation of the provisions of the Act and offences by authorities and Government Department, respectively.
Salient Features of the Act: The Forest Conservation Act was enacted with a view to check further deforestation, which ultimately results in ecological imbalances, accordingly the provisions made therewith must apply to all forest irrespective of the nature of ownership for classification thereof.
The world forest covers all statutorily recognized forests whether designated as reserved, protected or otherwise for Section 2 (i) of the Act. The term forest land included any area recorded as forest in the Government record irrespective of the ownership.
The salient features of the Act are as follows:
1. The act places restrictions on the power of the State Government concerning preservation of forests or use of forest land for non-forest purposes. Section 2 of the Act provides that the State Government shall not make amendments except with the prior approval of the Central Government or any order directing thereon:
(i) That any reserved forest or any portion thereof, shall cease to be reserved.
(ii) That any forest land or any portion thereof may be used for any non-forest purpose.
(iii) That any forest land or any portion thereof may be assigned by way of lease of otherwise to any private person or non-Government body.
(iv) That any forest or any portion thereof may be cleared of trees which have grown naturally in that land for the purpose of using it for reforestation.
2. The Act provides for the constitution of advisory committee to advise the Government with regard to the grant of approved by the Central Government (Sec. 2) or any other matter connected with conservation of forests which may be referred to it by the Central Government (Sec.3)
3. As per Section 2 of the Act, all ongoing non-forest activities within any forest, in any State throughout the country, without prior approval of the Centre, must cease forthwith.
4. On violation of the provision of Section 2, the offender shall be punishable with imprisonment for a period extending to 15 days (Section 3-A). Any government department or any authority deemed to be guilty of the offence shall be liable to be proceeded against and punished accordingly.
5. The amendment of 1988 shattered all the expectations of tribal communities and many voluntary agencies placed all the forest land under the jurisdiction of the forest department.
For the purpose of section 2 of the Act, non-forest purpose means the breaking up or clearing of any forest land or portion thereof for:
(a) The cultivation of tea, coffee, spices, rubber, palms, oil-bearing plant, horticulture crops or medicinal plants.
(b) Any purpose other than reforestation, but does not include any work relating to ancillary conservation, development and management of forest and wildlife, namely, the establishment of check posts, fire-lines, wireless communication and construction of fencing, bridges and culverts, dams, waterholes, trench marks, boundary marks, pipelines or other like purposes.
In conclusion the forest should be looked upon as a source of revenue. Forests are renewable natural sources.
These are national assets to be protected and enhanced for the well being of the people and Nation.