Forest Legislation - UPSC Indian Geography Notes

Forest Legislations – UPSC Indian Geography Notes

Table of Contents

Forests, regarded as the lungs of our planet, play a pivotal role in maintaining ecological balance and fostering biodiversity. In India, a tapestry of legislations and acts has been woven over the years to address the multifaceted challenges of forest conservation, sustainable resource management, and the protection of indigenous communities. The Indian Forest Act of 1927 marked a significant stride in formalizing regulations governing forests. Subsequently, the transformative Forest Conservation Act of 1980 aimed at curbing deforestation and ensuring sustainable forest use. The National Forest Policy of 1988 underscored the importance of maintaining a minimum forest cover, aligning environmental stability with developmental needs. The groundbreaking Forest Rights Act of 2006 sought to recognize and empower marginalized communities dependent on forest lands. As India grapples with environmental concerns and strives for harmonious coexistence, an exploration of these Forest Legislations becomes imperative for UPSC aspirants navigating the intricate landscape of environmental governance.

Indian Forest Act, 1927

The Indian Forest Act, 1927 was formulated with the objective of regulating the movement of forest produce and imposing duties on such produce. It outlines the process for designating an area as Reserved Forest, Protected Forest, or a Village Forest.

The Act provides comprehensive information on what constitutes a forest offence, specifies prohibited activities within a Reserved Forest, and outlines the penalties applicable for violating the Act’s provisions. Originally enacted in 1865, the Forest Act underwent two amendments in 1878 and 1927.


  • Indian Forest Act of 1865:
    • Establishment of Imperial Forest Department in 1864.
    • Objective: Establish British control over forests through legislation.
    • Empowered British government to declare land with trees as a government forest.
    • Authority to make rules for forest management.
  • Indian Forest Act of 1878:
    • Acquisition of sovereignty over wastelands, including forests.
    • Enabled administration to demarcate reserved and protected forests.
    • Denied local rights in protected forests.
    • Governed privileges given to locals, subject to revocation.
    • Classification of forests: reserved, protected, and village forests.
    • Regulation of forest produce collection, declaration of offenses, and imposition of penalties.
  • Indian Forest Act of 1927:
    • Impact on forest-dependent communities.
    • Penalties and procedures aimed at extending state control over forests.
    • Diminished people’s rights to forest use.
    • Alienation of village communities from traditional forest associations.
    • Amendments to restrain local use by forest-dependent communities.
    • Enacted for the effectiveness and improvement of previous forest laws.


  • Consolidate Previous Laws on Forests:
    • Unify existing forest laws.
  • Empower Government for Effective Usage:
    • Grant authority to the Government.
    • Create different classes of forests for colonial purposes.
  • Regulate Movement and Transit:
    • Control the movement and transit of forest produce.
    • Levy duty on timber and other forest produce.
  • Define Procedures for Forest Classification:
    • Specify procedures for declaring areas as:
      • Reserved Forest
      • Protected Forest
      • Village Forest
  • Address Forest Offenses:
    • Define forest offenses.
    • Prohibit acts within Reserved Forest.
    • Impose penalties for violations.
  • Enhance Conservation Accountability:
    • Improve accountability for forest and wildlife conservation.

Types of Forests

  • Reserved Forests:
    • Most restricted forests.
    • Constituted by the State Government.
    • On forest land or wasteland owned by the Government.
    • Local people prohibited, unless permitted by a Forest Officer during settlement.
  • Protected Forests:
    • State Government empowered to constitute non-reserved land as protected forests.
    • Government holds proprietary rights and authority to issue rules for forest use.
    • Enables State control over trees with revenue potential.
  • Village Forest:
    • State Government may assign rights of Government to a village community.
    • Applies to land constituted as a reserved forest.
    • Involves collaboration between the State and village communities.
  • Degree of Protection:
    • Reserved forests > Protected forests > Village forests.
  • Forest Settlement Officer:
    • Appointed by the State government.
    • Tasked with inquiring into and determining:
      • Existence
      • Nature
      • Extent of rights claimed in land within a Reserved forest.
    • Empowered to acquire land where claimed rights exist.


  • The government asserted that the act aimed to protect India’s vegetation cover. Yet, a thorough examination exposes that its true motive was revenue generation through tree cutting and forest produce.
  • The act bestowed extensive discretion and power upon the forest bureaucracy, often resulting in the harassment of forest dwellers.
  • Furthermore, it contributed to the deprivation of nomads and tribal people of their age-old rights and privileges to utilize forests and their produce.
  • The focus on revenue from timber eclipsed other essential values, such as biodiversity and soil erosion prevention.

Later Initiatives

  • Indian Forest Policy, 1952:
    • Extension of colonial forest policy.
    • Emphasis on increasing forest cover to one-third of total land area.
    • Priority on generating maximum annual revenue for national needs.
    • World Wars, defence, developmental projects, and industries heavily relied on forest produce.
  • Forest Conservation Act, 1980:
    • Central permission required for sustainable agro-forestry in forest areas.
    • Violation or lack of permit treated as a criminal offence.
    • Aims to limit deforestation, conserve biodiversity, and save wildlife.
  • National Forest Policy, 1988:
    • Objective: Maintain environmental stability and ecological balance.
    • Shift from commercial concerns to focus on ecological role and participatory management.
  • Other Acts Related to Forest Conservation:
    • Wildlife Protection Act of 1972
    • Environment Protection Act of 1986
    • Biodiversity Protection Act of 2003
  • Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006:
    • Recognizes and vests forest rights and occupation in forest land for Scheduled Tribes and traditional forest dwellers.
    • Aimed at those residing in such forests for generations.

Forest Conservation Act 1980

The Forest Conservation Act of 1980, introduced by the Indian Parliament, serves to control deforestation and conserve forests and their resources. Also known as the Forest Protection Act, its primary goal is to prevent the conversion of forest lands for other purposes.

The initial legal framework on this matter was the Indian Forest Act of 1865, later replaced by the Indian Forest Act of 1927. Post-Independence, the Forest Conservation Act 1980 was enacted, imposing restrictions on using forests for non-forest purposes. The 1927 Act was deemed less suitable, designed to safeguard British interests.

What is Forest Conservation Act?

  • The Forest (Conservation) Ordinance came into effect in 1980 upon India gaining independence, but it was subsequently abolished by Section 5 of the Forest (Conservation) Act of 1980. This later Act imposed limitations on the utilization of forests for non-forest activities.
  • In a bid to halt ongoing deforestation, the Government of India enacted the Forest Protection Act 1980. This legislation played a crucial role in mitigating deforestation, contributing to environmental well-being and the preservation of various types of forests in India.

Objectives of Forest Conservation Act 1980

  • One of the key aims of conserving forests is to safeguard the flora, fauna, and ecological components within. The objectives of the Forest Conservation Act 1980 include:
  1. Protecting the integrity, individuality, and territory of forests.
  2. Replenishing forests through tree planting and fostering growth.
  3. Preventing the conversion of forest reserves into grazing lands, residential areas, agricultural lands, etc.
  4. Halting the decline of forest biodiversity.

Salient Features of Forest Conservation Act 1980

  • The Act constrains and regulates the authority of the State Government and other authoritative organizations, necessitating prior permission from the Central Government for certain decisions. Here are key features of the Forest Conservation Act 1980:
  1. The formation of an advisory committee to assist and advise the Central Government on matters pertaining to forest preservation.
  2. The absolute power vested in the Central Government to enforce any laws formulated under this Act.
  3. Provisions stating that individuals found violating the Act are liable for penalties.

What are the Main Goals of the Forest Conservation Act 1980?

  • Key sections of the Forest Conservation Act, 1980 highlight its primary objectives:
  1. The law applies to the entire nation of India, excluding Jammu and Kashmir. Following the removal of Article 370, central laws became applicable. However, currently, only 37 laws apply to Jammu and Kashmir, and the Forest Conservation Act of 1980 is not among them.
  2. Prohibition on using forests for purposes other than those of a forest. State governments need central government approval for laws related to forests. The focus is on “non-forest purposes,” which involves extracting trees from forest areas for planting items like tea, spices, rubber, coffee, palms, medicinal plants, etc.
  3. The Central Government has the authority to establish an advisory committee to provide guidance on issues related to the preservation of forests.

Amendments to the Forest Conservation Act, 1980

  • The Union Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change recommended revisions to the Forest Conservation Act of 1980 in March 2021, aiming to balance ecological and economic concerns. Key changes include:
  1. Exemption for Subsurface Exploration:
    • Proposed new “section 1A” exempts survey and exploration for subsurface natural gas and oil from being considered “non-forest activities.”
    • Official approval is not required, but restrictions by the center, such as avoiding activities near animal sanctuaries, will apply.
  2. Railroad Network Land Exemption:
    • Land acquired for railroad networks will be free from the Forest Conservation Act.
    • Central government rules, including tree planting for compensation, will be established.
  3. Leasing Forest Properties by Private Companies:
    • Modification removes the clause preventing private companies from leasing non-federally owned forest properties for commercial use.
    • State governments can now rent forest lands without seeking federal government permission.
  4. Exclusion of Specific Tree Planting:
    • Planting native palm and oil-producing tree species is proposed to be excluded from “non-forest purpose” in Section 2.
    • Payment of additional levies and compensations will be subject to government-set conditions, including compensatory afforestation.
  5. Expansion of Non-Forestry Use:
    • Proposed modifications include activities like building checkpoints, fence limits, and communication infrastructure for non-forestry use.
    • May encompass eco-tourism amenities authorized by the central government’s Working Scheme or Forest Working Plan.

Difference Between Wildlife Protection Act and Forest Conservation Act

A significant distinction exists between the Wildlife Protection Act and the Forest Conservation Act as they address distinct entities. The Wildlife Act focuses on wildlife, encompassing wild animal species inhabiting an area independently. On the other hand, the Forest Conservation Act is centered on the conservation of forests and their adjoining areas.

Forest Conservation ActWildlife Protection Act
Launched in 1980.Launched much earlier in 1972.
Main aim is to protect and conserve forests.Main aim is to protect endangered animal species.
Checks grazing of cattle in forest areas.Prohibits hunting of animals under the list of threatened species.
Aims to preserve forests as national heritage.Protects certain plants and other wildlife areas serving as natural habitats for wildlife animals.

Need for Forest Conservation Act, 1980

A valuable resource provided by nature for humanity is forests, and it is the collective responsibility to safeguard forest ecosystems. However, the natural cycle faces disruption due to increased deforestation, necessitating the enactment of laws to ensure forest preservation.

The Indian Forest Statute of 1865, later replaced by a 1927 iteration, stands as one of the earliest legal initiatives for protecting forest regions. However, its primary focus was on defending British Empire business interests in India. The act granted the British the authority to impose fees on wood and forest services to restrict tribal activity. In essence, rather than prioritizing forest protection, it primarily regulated timber cutting and raw material movement.

Forest Conservation Act 1980 UPSC

The Forest Conservation Act of 1980 assumes a crucial role in forest conservation and fostering diversity. It constitutes a significant portion of the UPSC syllabus, requiring candidates to be well-prepared for accurately and precisely answering related questions. A comprehensive understanding of the Forest Conservation Act will enlighten candidates on environmental and ecological concepts.

National Forest Policy 1988

The National Forest Policy of 1988 governs India’s forests, focusing on the protection, conservation, and development of these vital ecosystems. The policy envisions that 33% of the country’s geographical area should be under forest or tree cover. The primary objective is to ensure environmental stability and preserve the ecological balance, including atmospheric equilibrium, crucial for the survival of all life forms—human, animal, and plant. This policy places environmental balance and livelihood at its core. Since its implementation in 1988, the country’s forest and tree cover has increased from 19.7% (India State Forest Report, 1987) to 24.62% (India State of Forest Report 2021).

What is National Forest Policy, 1988?

The National Forest Policy of 1988 holds significant importance as an environmental policy in India. Its formulation was directed towards addressing the conservation and sustainable management of forests. The policy underscores the ecological and environmental value of forests, acknowledging their role in maintaining ecological balance. Key objectives include the protection of forest land from encroachment and degradation, meeting the fuelwood, timber, and non-wood forest product needs of local communities. It places a priority on promoting afforestation and reforestation, particularly with the involvement of local communities. Biodiversity conservation and the protection of wildlife habitats are integral components. The policy advocates for research and development in forestry and encourages the participation of various stakeholders in forest management.

Background of National Forest Policy

In 1850, the British in Bombay appointed the first Conservator of Forests, and by 1864, the inaugural Forest Department was established. The Forest Policy of 1894 marked the first comprehensive policy on forests in India during British colonial rule. Its aim was to establish custodial and timber-oriented forest management. However, the emphasis was on resource exploitation rather than forest conservation.

After independence, the Central Forestry Board formed in 1950, and the issuance of a National Forest Policy in 1952 marked significant developments. This post-independence policy recommended bringing 33% of the country’s total area under forest cover. In 1988, the policy underwent revision as the government heightened awareness of ecological harm, environmental exploitation, and the duty to protect biodiversity and the environment.

Objectives of National Forest Policy 1988

The National Forest Policy, articulated in 1988, outlines the following objectives:

  1. Maintain environmental stability through the preservation and, if necessary, restoration of ecological balance impacted by substantial forest depletion.
  2. Conserve the nation’s natural heritage by preserving and protecting remaining natural forests, which harbor a diverse array of flora and fauna representing the country’s incredible biological diversity and genetic resources.
  3. Mitigate soil erosion and denudation in the catchment areas of rivers, lakes, and reservoirs, aiming to conserve soil and water, reduce floods and droughts, and delay reservoir siltation.
  4. Address the expansion of sand dunes in Rajasthan’s desert regions.
  5. Significantly increase the country’s forest and tree cover through extensive afforestation and social forestry programs, especially in deforested, degraded, and unproductive regions.
  6. Satisfy the needs of rural and tribal communities for fuelwood, fodder, minor forest produce, and small timber.
  7. Enhance forest productivity to meet the country’s immediate needs.
  8. Promote effective wood substitution and efficient use of forest products.
  9. Mobilize a large-scale, women-led people’s movement to achieve these goals and reduce strain on existing forests.

Achievements of National Forest Policy, 1988

The National Forest Policy of 1988 in India has achieved notable milestones in its mission to promote sustainable forest management and conservation. Key accomplishments include:

  1. Conservation of Forest Cover:
    • Significant success in conserving the forest cover across India.
  2. Biodiversity Protection:
    • Emphasis on biodiversity conservation resulting in the protection of various plant and animal species.
  3. Community Participation:
    • Recognition of the importance of involving local communities in forest management.
  4. Afforestation and Reforestation:
    • Focus on afforestation and reforestation efforts, leading to the expansion of forested areas.
  5. Promotion of Sustainable Forestry Practices:
    • Advocacy for sustainable forest management practices, contributing to responsible resource utilization.
  6. Research and Development:
    • Encouragement of research and development in the field of forestry.
  7. Protection of Watersheds:
    • Recognition of the crucial role of forests in maintaining watersheds and regulating water resources.
  8. Awareness and Education:
    • Promotion of awareness and education about the importance of forests and their conservation.
  9. Global Recognition:
    • Recognition on the international stage for India’s commitment to forest conservation outlined in the National Forest Policy of 1988.

Blueprint for Forest Management under National Forest Policy 1988

The salient features of the National Forest Policy 1988 for forest management are outlined below:

  1. Afforestation, Social Forestry & Farm Forestry:
    • Goal: Increase forest and tree cover to 1/3 of the entire land mass.
    • Encouragement of land regulations changes to facilitate tree plantation and cultivation of fodder plants, grasses, and legumes on private property.
  2. Management of State Forests:
    • Forest exploitation requires government approval of the management plan under the prescribed format of the National Forest Policy 1988.
  3. Recognition of Tribal Rights and Concessions:
    • Communities, especially tribals, residing in and around forest regions shall have primary rights to use produce from these areas, preserving all privileges and rights.
  4. Emphasis on Wildlife Conservation Practices:
    • Special attention to wildlife protection in the forest management process.
    • Inclusion of strategies in plans, including the construction of “corridors” connecting protected areas to preserve genetic continuity among migratory species.
  5. Relationship between Forests and Industries:
    • Locals given precedence in employment opportunities in forest-based industries.
    • Full involvement of locals in the production of raw materials and tree cultivation, as per the National Forest Policy 1988.

Criticism of National Forest Policy

Criticism from environmentalists, experts, and academicians regarding the National Forest Policy 1988 includes:

  1. Need for Policy Amendment:
    • The current policy has not undergone updates for an extended period, despite significant changes in the situation of forests and climate.
  2. Ambiguity in Forest Definition:
    • Lack of a clear, nationally accepted definition of the term ‘forest’ leads to ambiguity.
    • States are left to determine their own definitions, contributing to uncertainty.

Indian State of Forest Report

The India State of Forest Report (ISFR) is periodically published every 2 years by the Forest Survey of India (FSI) and released by the Ministry of Environment, Forests, and Climate Change (MoEFCC).

Key points from the 17th ISFR (2021) include:

  1. Total Forest and Tree Cover:
    • 24.62% of the land area, equivalent to 80.9 million hectares.
  2. Highest Forest Cover (Area-wise):
    • Madhya Pradesh leads in terms of forest cover area.
  3. Highest Forest Cover (Percentage of Total Area):
    • Mizoram boasts the highest percentage of forest cover relative to its total area.
  4. Maximum Increase in Forest Cover:
    • Andhra Pradesh recorded the highest increase in forest cover.

Way Forward

The 1988 National Forest Policy requires immediate review to clarify its aims and objectives in contemporary terms. Reconsideration of terms and concepts is imperative as the policy incorporates ideas that were discarded over a century ago. Well-integrated and efficiently implemented initiatives are essential for the conservation of the environment and forests.

Forest Rights Act (FRA) 2006

The Forest Rights Act, India, also known as the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, is alternatively referred to as the Tribal Rights Act or the Tribal Land Act. It addresses the rights of communities, including Scheduled Tribes, residing in forests over land and other resources. These rights were historically denied due to the perpetuation of colonial-era forest laws in the country.

This article aims to provide crucial facts about the Forest Rights Act (FRA), which hold significance for GS Prelims, mains, and Sociology Optional in the IAS Exam.

In December 2006, the Forest Rights Act was enacted, granting legal recognition to the rights of traditional forest-dwelling communities. This legislation serves to partially correct the injustices caused by colonial-era forest laws. The preceding policies and acts, including the previous Forest Acts of 1865, 1894, and 1927, had previously hindered local communities from utilizing forest resources.

What is Forest Rights Act (FRA) 2006?

Forest Rights Act (FRA) 2006
What is it called?Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act (FRA)
What does the Act intend?The act aims to recognize the rights of marginal and tribal communities over forest lands traditionally dependent upon.
Are communities’ rights catered to by FRA 2006?Yes, the act intends to grant rights over common property forest lands to all destitute forest communities across India.
What is the potential of FRA 2006?– Empowering local self-governance<br> – Addressing issues of poverty alleviation and pro-poor growth<br> – Highlighting and addressing the conservation and management of India’s natural resources.

Implementation of the Forest Rights Act 2006

The Gram Sabha holds the authority to initiate the process of vesting rights in marginal and tribal communities, assessing their needs from forest lands.

  1. Gram Sabha’s Role:
    • After assessment, Gram Sabha receives and consolidates claims from communities, verifying them to enable the exercise of their rights.
  2. Resolution Process:
    • Gram Sabha passes a resolution to a sub-divisional level committee (formed by state governments).
    • If dissatisfaction persists, communities may file a petition to the sub-divisional level committee.
  3. Decision Hierarchy:
    • Sub-Divisional Level Committee assesses and passes resolutions to the sub-divisional officer, forwarding to the district level committee for the final decision.
    • Decisions of the district-level committee are deemed final and binding.
  4. State-level Monitoring Committee:
    • State government constitutes a committee to monitor the recognition process.
  5. Committee Composition:
    • Comprising officers from the Department of Revenue, Department of Forests, and Department of Tribal Affairs of the state government.
    • Three Panchayati Raj Institution members, including two Scheduled Tribes members and at least one woman.
  6. Forest Rights Recognition:
    • The Act recognizes and vests forest rights in Forest Dwelling Scheduled Tribes (FDST) and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (OTFD) with generations-long residence in such forests.
  7. Types of Rights Recognized:
    • Title rights: Ownership rights to land farmed, up to a maximum of 4 hectares, subject to actual cultivation.
    • Use rights: Extending to extracting Minor Forest Produce, grazing areas, etc.
    • Relief and development rights: Rehabilitation in cases of illegal eviction, forced displacement, and access to basic amenities.
    • Forest management rights: Including the right to protect, regenerate, conserve, or manage any community forest resource traditionally safeguarded for sustainable use.

Community Forest Resource Rights (CFRR)

  1. Prominent Reasons for Non-Implementation:
    • Uncertainty about the location and extent of eligible forest land for CFRR claims.
    • Lack of specific targets for state governments, making performance measurement challenging.
  2. Concerns and Challenges:
    • Complex Implementation: Involves multiple stakeholders, varied legal interpretations, and administrative complexities.
    • Legal Process Navigations: Local communities face difficulties in claiming and exercising CFRR due to bureaucratic delays, documentation hurdles, and conflicting stakeholder interests.
  3. Additional Challenges:
    • Conflicts with Conservation Goals: Community management may conflict with conservation objectives.
    • Resource Degradation and Overuse: Unregulated extraction leading to deforestation, habitat destruction, and biodiversity loss.
    • Capacity Limitations: Local communities may lack technical, financial, and institutional capacity for effective CFRR management.
  4. External Pressures and Threats:
    • Industrial Encroachment: External pressures from industrial activities, infrastructure development, illegal logging, mining, and land grabbing.
    • Undermining Community Rights: External pressures can undermine local communities’ rights, challenging sustainable forest management.
  5. Community Forest Resource Rights (CFRRs):
    • Definition: Legal recognition and protection of traditional forest rights of local communities, including indigenous and tribal communities, over forests and forest resources in their customary use areas.
    • Provision: Under the Forest Rights Act (FRA) of 2006.
  6. Benefits of CFRRs:
    • Source of Livelihood: Sustainable harvesting of non-timber forest products, agriculture, agroforestry, and livestock rearing.
    • Forest Management: Vested interest in protecting and conserving forests for sustainable practices.
    • Traditional Knowledge: Recognition and protection of customary and cultural rights, preserving indigenous heritage.
    • Empowerment and Participation: Increased community engagement in decision-making and governance.
    • Social Justice: Addressing historical injustices and displacement due to forest conservation policies.
    • Biodiversity Conservation: Well-managed forests contribute to carbon sequestration, aiding climate change mitigation efforts.

Significance of Forest Rights Act (FRA) 2006

  1. Recognition of Community and Individual Rights:
    • Acknowledges community rights and rights over common property resources (CPR).
    • Highlights individual rights of tribal and marginal communities.
  2. Introduction of Revenue Villages:
    • Introduces the concept of revenue villages, converting various types of villages into this category.
  3. Livelihood and Food Security:
    • Ensures livelihood and food security for Forest Dwellers, Scheduled Tribes, and Other Forest Dwellers.
    • Strengthens the conservation regime of the forest.
  4. Community Forest Resources Management:
    • Monitors and manages Community Forest Resources, preserving traditional linkages with marginal communities.
    • Safeguards intellectual property rights and traditional knowledge related to cultural and biodiversity diversity.
  5. Expansion of Constitutional Schedules:
    • Expands the mandate of the 5th & 6th Schedules of the Constitution, protecting claims of indigenous communities over land or forests.
  6. Protection of Displaced Communities:
    • Secures rights of displaced communities, addressing factors contributing to movements like Naxalism.
    • Provides inclusion to tribes by identifying Individual Forest Rights (IFR) and Community Forest Rights (CFR).
  7. Recognition of Rights over Developmental Activities:
    • Acknowledges the rights of marginal and tribal communities over developmental activities.
  8. Generational Residence Criteria:
    • Allows forest rights claims for individuals or communities residing in forest land for at least three generations (75 years) before December 13, 2005.
  9. Enhanced Forest Management:
    • Empowers people to manage their forests, regulating resource exploitation, improving forest governance, and better managing tribal rights.

Land and its administration fall exclusively under the legislative and administrative authority of States, as mandated by the Constitution of India. The Ministry of Rural Development (MoRD) and the Department of Land Resources (DoLR) act as the central nodal Ministry overseeing land reforms at the national level.

Key Terms related to the Forest Rights Act (FRA)

Community Forest ResourceCustomary common forest land within the traditional boundaries of a village, including seasonal use landscapes for pastoral communities.
Critically Wildlife HabitatAreas notified by the Government of India (Ministry of Environment & Forest) meeting scientific criteria for Critical Wildlife Habitat (CWH).
Forest Dwelling Scheduled TribesIndividuals or groups residing in and dependent on forest land for their livelihood needs.
Forest VillagesSettlements established by State Forest Departments for forestry operations, including Forest Settlement Villages, Fixed Demand Holdings, taungya settlements, and lands permitted by the government.
Minor Forest Produce (MFP)Non-timber forest products of plant origin, such as bamboo, canes, fodder, leaves, gums, waxes, dyes, resins, and various food items like nuts, wild fruits, honey, and lac.
Other Traditional Forest DwellersIndividuals or communities residing or depending on forest land for livelihood needs prior to December 13, 2005.

Forest Rights Act (FRA) 2006 Criticism

The act has faced criticism on several fronts:

  1. Potential Encroachment: Concerns have been raised that the act might inadvertently contribute to further encroachment on already distressed forest lands.
  2. Eviction Rates: Despite aiming to address the needs of forest dwellers, the act has faced criticism for potentially increasing eviction rates when the government rejects claims on forest lands.
  3. Sub-divisional Level Committee: Questions surround the efficacy and fairness of the sub-divisional level committee, which holds significant decision-making power concerning the claims and needs of marginal communities.
  4. Resistance from Forest Departments: Some forest departments have been reluctant to relinquish control over forest lands, and the act’s reliance on the cooperation of these departments has been criticized.
  5. Proving Occupancy: Tribes and communities often lack the capacity to adequately prove their historical occupancy of forest land, posing a challenge to strengthening their claims under the law.
  6. Commercial Plantations: There is debate and questioning regarding the government’s decision to permit commercial plantations in degraded land, which constitutes a significant portion (40%) of forests. Critics argue that this may have implications for biodiversity and ecological health.

Constitutional provisions are in place to safeguard tribal populations from displacement due to land acquisitions. In areas with scheduled tribes, the State Governor has the authority to prohibit or restrict land transfers from tribals and regulate land allotments to Scheduled Tribes members. Rehabilitation and resettlement provisions outlined in the RFCTLARR Act, 2013 are executed by respective State Governments, as land falls under the State subject jurisdiction. The Forest Rights Act intersects with the broader issue of tribal land rights.

The “Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013” (RFCTLARR Act, 2013) serves as a protective measure against the displacement of Scheduled Tribes. The Act aims to ensure a humane, participative, informed, and transparent land acquisition process, minimizing disruption to landowners and affected families. It mandates just and fair compensation for those whose land is acquired or proposed for acquisition. Consultation with local self-government institutions and Gram Sabhas, as established under the Constitution, is integral to this process.


In conclusion, India’s forest legislation has undergone a dynamic evolution, reflecting shifts from colonial-era exploitation to contemporary conservation and community empowerment. The Forest Conservation Act of 1980 marked a pivotal moment, aiming to control deforestation and conserve vital forest resources. Subsequent policies, including the National Forest Policy of 1988, emphasized environmental stability, ecological balance, and participatory management. The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006, brought a transformative dimension by recognizing and vesting forest rights in marginalized communities, promoting sustainable forest management. However, challenges persist, with criticisms surrounding implementation gaps, bureaucratic complexities, and conflicts between conservation goals and local livelihoods. The forest legislation landscape is a critical arena where the delicate balance between environmental preservation and social equity continues to unfold, requiring ongoing adaptation and robust governance to address the multifaceted dimensions of forest management in India.

FAQs on Forest Legislations

Q: When did the Indian Forest Act, 1927 come into force?

A: The Indian Forest Act of 1927 came into force on 1st April 1927.

Q: When did the Forest Conservation Act 1980 come into force?

A: The Forest Conservation Act 1980 came into force on 25th October 1980.

Q: Name two crucial cases related to the Forest Conservation Act 1980.

A: The Godavarman Case and T.N. Godavarman Thirumulpad vs Union of India are two crucial cases related to the Forest Conservation Act 1980.

Q: With regards to the Forest Conservation Act 1980, what is the percentage of total forest and tree cover in India?

A: As per the Forest Conservation Act 1980, the aim is to maintain a minimum of one-third of the total land area under forest and tree cover.

Q: Name the classifications of forests under the Forest Conservation Act 1980.

A: The Forest Conservation Act 1980 classifies forests into Reserved Forests, Protected Forests, and Unclassed Forests.

Q: Which state is not covered under the Forest Conservation Act?

A: Jammu and Kashmir are exempt from the Forest Conservation Act.

Q: What is the minimum forest cover to be maintained as per the National Forest Policy 1988?

A: The National Forest Policy 1988 stipulates that 33% of the country’s geographical area should be under forest or tree cover.

Q: What was the main aim of the forest policy passed in December 1988?

A: The main aim of the Forest Policy passed in December 1988 was to ensure environmental stability, preservation of ecological balance, and addressing issues related to atmospheric equilibrium.

Q: When was the latest National Forest Policy launched?

A: The latest National Forest Policy was launched in 2018.

Q: In which year was the first national forest policy launched?

A: The first National Forest Policy was launched in 1952.

Q: When was the Forest Rights Act passed?

A: The Forest Rights Act was passed in 2006.

Q: What are the benefits of the Forest Rights Act?

A: The Forest Rights Act recognizes and empowers marginalized communities, protects traditional forest rights, and promotes sustainable forest management, ensuring social justice and biodiversity conservation.

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