The Indian Forest Act, 1927- was enacted to ‘consolidate the law related to forest, the transit of forest produce, and the duty liable on timber and other forest produce’. The most famous one was the Indian Forest Act of 1878. Both the 1878 act and the 1927 act sought to consolidate and reserve the areas having forest cover, or significant wildlife, to regulate movement and transit of forest produce, and the duty leviable on timber and other forest produce.
It also defines the procedure to be followed for declaring an area to be a Reserved Forest, a Protected Forest or a Village Forest. It defines what is a forest offense, what are the acts prohibited inside a Reserved Forest, and penalties leviable on violation of the provisions of the Act.
Dietrich Brandis set up the Indian Forest Service in 1864 and helped formulate the Indian Forest Act of 1865. The Indian Forest Act of 1865 extended the British colonialism in India and claimed over forests in India. The 1865 act was a precursor to the Forest Act of 1878, which truncated the centuries-old traditional use by communities of their forests and secured the colonial government’s control over the forestry. The act of 1865 empowered the British government to declare any land covered with trees as a government forest and make rules to manage it. The government mainly used the woods for railway sleepers manufacture. This law also made teak wood a government property.
The main objective 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 new legislation became urgent. The Act made it possible to retain greater control over the frightening level of deforestation in the country and specified penalties for offenders.
- Penalties for offenses 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 be extended to Rs. 500 or both.
- Penalties for offenses in protected Forests: A person who commits any of the following offenses 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 be extended to six months or with a fine which any extended to Rs. 500 or both.
- Any forest officer even without an order from the magistrate or a warrant can arrest any person against whom a reasonable suspicion exists.