Last Updated on February 17, 2023 by SPN Editor
Reacting to the DO letter of Saikot AC MLA Paolienlal Haokip who intervened against the show-cause notice served by Divisional Forest Office, Churachandpur over encroachment within Dampi Reserved Forest, the Principal Chief Conservator of Forest has categorically clarified that Reserved Forests do not come under the purview of the Hill Area Committee (HAC) under any Act/rule.
The MLA in his letter argued that the eviction process in the area would contravene constitutional provisions relating to administration of the hill areas.
Making clarification point by point with regard to Paolienlal statement, the PCCF in a reply letter stated that Dampi Reserved Forest was notified by the Government vide Notification No. FR-8/51 on August 1, 1951 for conservation and development of forests including wildlife and the notification was published as Manipur Gazette No.28 on August 8, 1951.
The management of which is under the control of DFO Churachandpur Forest Division and all the provisions of Indian Forest Act, 1927, Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 and Rules made thereunder are applicable in the RF. Under any Act/Rule, Reserved Forests do not come under the purview of Hill Area Committee, it elaborated.
It conveyed that Section 26 (1) (f) & (h) of the Indian forest Act, 1927, any person who fells, girdles, lops or burns any tree or strips off the bark or leaves from, or otherwise damages the same, and clears or breaks up any land for cultivation for any other purpose shall be punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to six months, or with fine which may extend to ten thousand rupees, or both, in addition to such compensation for damage done to the forest as the convicting Court may direct.
Section 2 of the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980, notwithstanding, anything contained in any other law for the time being in force in a State, the State Government or other authority shall make, except with the prior approval of the Central Government, any order directing that any reserved forest or any portion thereof shall cease to be reserved, any forest land at any portion thereof may be used for any non-forest
purpose and that any forest land or any portion thereof may be assigned by way of lease or otherwise to any private person or to any authority, corporation, agency or any other organisation not owned, managed or controlled by the Government, it explained.
It reminded that the Supreme Court in its order passed on December 12, 1996, passed in Writ petition No.202 of 1995 has held that the provisions of Section 2 of the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980 shall be applicable to all the forests, irrespective of the legal status of ownership including the Reserved Forests, Protected Forests and Unclassed Forests. As such, encroachment, breaking of lands, recognition of village inside the forest lands, etc. is in violation of the provisions of the said Act. Besides, the apex court had directed in various cases for eviction of encroachers from forest lands, it added.
Reiterating that encroachment in forest lands including reserved forests has become a major driving force for loss of forest cover, deforestation and degradation of forest of Manipur, the PCCF pointed out that the act of encroachment violates the provisions of the Indian Forest Act 1927, Forest Conservation Act, 1980 and rules made thereunder. The State Government has viewed encroachment in forest lands seriously and the concerned DFOs who are directly in charge of the forest under their divisions have been instructed to take necessary action for eviction of the encroachers. It is the bounden duty of the Divisional Forest Officers to check encroachment in forest land and also to evict the encroachers as provided under Manipur Forest Rules, 1971, it stated.
The DFO, Churachandpur has issued the show cause notice to the encroachers in Dampi Reserved forest as a duty-bound officer in the exercise of her authority given under Rule No 81 (4) of the Manipur Forest Rules, 1971. The show cause notices were issued by DFO, Churachandpur as a part of her function and duty duly following the procedures laid down under the Acts and Rules for protection of the forests in the interest of the public, it added.
Mention may be made that Saikot MLA Paolienlal Haokip in a letter submitted on May 2 intervened against the show-cause notice served to three villages by DFO, Churachandpur over encroachment inside Dampi Reserved Forest.
Again on May 17, Paolienlal Haokip has drawn the attention of the Minister for Forest, Environment and Climate Change Thongam Biswajit over certain procedural lapses on the part of forest officials while declaring an area as reserved forest thereby leading to misunderstandings.