Forest Case Update
Since 1996, the Supreme Court of India has assumed the role of the principal decision maker so far as issues relating to forests and wildlife are concerned. This has been due to Supreme Court's intervention through the following cases:
- The T. N. Godavarman Thirumulkpad vs Union of India and ors (WP No 202 of 1995) concerning the implementation of the Forest Conservation Act, 1980.
- The Centre for Environmental Law (CEL), WWF vs Union of India and ors (WP No 337 of 1995) concerning the issue of settlement of Rights in National Parks and Sanctuaries and other issues under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.
These cases are being heard for the last nine years and are a part of what is termed as "continuing mandamus", whereby the Courts, rather than passing final judgments, keeps on passing orders and directions with a view to monitor the functioning of the executive.They have led to fundamental changes in the pattern of forest governance and decision making.
Some examples include:
- By virtue of the Supreme Court's order dated 13.11.2000 in the CEL WWF case (W.P. No. 337 of 1995), no forest, National Park or Sanctuary can be dereserved without the approval of the Supreme Court.
- No non-forest activity is permitted in any National Park or Sanctuary even if prior approval under the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 has been obtained.
- The interim order dated 14.2.2000 prohibited the removal of any dead or decaying trees, grasses, drift wood etc. from any area comprising a National Park or a Sanctuary notified under Section 18 or 35 of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.
It was also directed that if any order to the contrary has been passed by any State Government or other authorities the operation of the same shall be stayed. In order to advise the Supreme Court on the various issues concerning forest and wildlife conservation, the Central Empowered Committee (CEC) was set up as an authority under Section 3 (3) of the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986 to adjudicate on forest and wildlife related issues. Despite its wide impact and implication on forest management and governance most environment, human rights and activists groups and also the Government are not generally aware of the current developments in the Courts. Existing methods of reporting of Court's orders and judgments are generally inadequate and do not reach the concerned the groups in time. An Information Dissemination Service is therefore been envisaged as a neutral body that will keep a watch on the happenings in the Supreme Court and disseminate information through electronic as well as other means to interested groups and individuals on all decisions concerning the above two cases.
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