‘Enforce Private Forests Act in Kanyakumari’

To preserve the environment and maintain the ecological balance in Kanyakumari District, the Madras High Court has directed the State to strictly enforce the provisions of Tamil Nadu Preservation of Private Forests Act 1949 declaring lands owned by planters within the forest areas as ‘Private Forests’
‘Enforce Private Forests Act in Kanyakumari’
A file photo of the Madras High Court

Chennai

The First bench, comprising Chief Justice Sanjay Kishan Kaul and Justice T S Sivagnanam, while disposing the appeal moved by Kanyakumari District Planers Association against a single judge order said, there are several estate owners whose lands now fall within the ambit of private forest had been granted patta by erstwhile Travancore-Cochin State. 
This appears to have resulted in Kanyakumari district facing a unique problem in terms of preserving the environment and any dilution in the provision of the Act would lead to disastrous consequences. Justice Sivagnanam writing the order on behalf of the bench said any intervention with the Government notification declaring those areas as private forest would result in deforestation. 
This would not only violate the SC order but also defeat the National Forest and State policies to increase the forest and tree cover up to one- third area of the Geographical jurisdiction of the state especially when it is yet to achieve the optimum level. 
The Kanyakumari District Planters Association had contended that the section which defines ‘forest’ is an inclusive definition and the Act could have no application to a land which is cultivated with rubber and other agricultural cash crops. 
However, the Government contended that the Act is not a prohibitive statute, but a statute intended to regulate and preserve private forest. Moreover, the  right of the landowners over the property has not been divested.

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