The Indian Forest Act of 1927 consolidated all the previous laws regarding forests that were passed before the 1920s. The Act gave the Government and Forest Department the power to create Reserved Forests, and the right to use Reserved Forests for Government use alone.
It also created Protected Forests, in which the use of resources by local people was controlled. Some forests were to be controlled by the village community, and these were called village Forests. The Act remained in force till the 1980s when it was realized that protecting forests for timber production alone was not acceptable. The other values of protecting the services that forests provide and its valuable assets such as biodiversity began to overshadow the importance of their revenue earnings from timber.
This led to the Forest Conservation Act of 1980 and its amendment 1988. India’s first Forest Policy was enunciated in 1952. Between 1952 and 1988, the extent of deforestation was so great that it became essential to formulate a new policy on forests and their utilization.
The earlier forest policies had focused only on revenue generation. In the 1980’s it became clear that forests must be protected for their other functions such as the maintenance of soil and water regimes centered on ecological concerns. It also provided for the use of goods and services of the forest for its local inhabitants.
The new policy framework made conversion of forests into other uses much less possible. Conservation of the forests as a natural heritage finds a place in the new policy, which includes the preservation of its biological diversity and genetic resources.
It also values meeting the needs of local people for food, fuel wood, fodder and Non-Timber Forest Produces (NTFPs). It gives priority to maintaining environmental stability and ecological balances. It expressly states that the network of Protected Areas should be strengthened and extended.
The Forest Conservation Act of 1980 was enacted to control deforestation; it ensured that forestlands could not be de-reserved without prior approval of the Central Government. This was created as some states had begun to de-reserve the Reserved Forests for non-forest use.
These states had regularized encroachments and resettled ‘project Affected people’ from development projects such as dams in these de-reserved areas. The need for a new legislation became urgent. The Act made it possible to retain a greater control over the frightening level of deforestation in the country and specified penalties for offenders.
Penalties for offences in Reserved Forests:
No person is allowed to make clearing or set fire to a reserved forest. Cattle are not permitted to trespass into the reserved forest, cutting, collecting of timber, bark or leaves, quarrying or collecting any forest products is punishable with imprisonment for a term of six months or with a fine which may extended to Rs. 500 or both.
Penalties for offences in protected Forests:
a. A person who commits any of the following offences like cutting of trees, stripping the bark or leaves of trees, set fire to such forests or permits cattle to damage any tree, shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extended to six months or with a fine which any extended to Rs. 500 or both.
b. Any forest officer even without an order from the magistrate or a warrant can arrest any person against whom a reasonable suspicion exists.