Data source
Date of text
12 Dec 1996
Original language


Type of text
National - higher court
Court name
Supreme Court of India
Verma, J.
Kirpal., B.
forest conservation, forest management

In 1995, T.N. Godavarman Thirumulpad filed a writ petition with the Supreme Court of India to protect the Nilgiris forest land from deforestation by illegal timber operations. In view of the great significance of the points involved in these matters, relating to the protection and conservation of the forests throughout the country, the Court formed the opinion that the matters required a further indepth hearing to examine all the aspects relating to the National Forest Policy. However, it considered that certain interim directions were necessary in respect of some aspects, to oversee the enforcement of forest laws across the nation.
The Court issued detailed directions for the sustainable use of forests and created its own monitoring and implementation system through regional and state level communities, regulating the felling, use and movement of timber across the country in the hope of preserving the nation's forest. The Court examined in detail all the aspect of the National Forest Policy, the Forest Conservation Act, 1980, which was enacted with a view to check further deforestation. It emphasised that the word 'forest' must be understood according to its dictionary meaning of the term irrespective of the nature of ownership and classification thereof. According to this new broader definition, any forest thus defined, regardless of ownership, would be subject to §2 of the FCA. Section 2 of the Act specifies that no state government or other authority may allow the use of any forest land for any non-forestry purpose without prior approval from the central government. Under the new interpretation of forest land under §2 of the FCA, states could no longer de-reserve protected forests for commercial or industrial (non-forestry) use without permission.
Among the directions issued, the following are the principle ones: 1) All forest activities throughout the country, without the specific approval of the Central Government must cease forthwith. Therefore running of saw mills, plywood mills and mining are all non forest purposes and they cannot carry on with the Central approval; 2) The felling of all trees in all forest is to remain suspended except in accordance with the working plan approved by the Central Government; 3) Complete ban on the movement of cut trees and timber from any seven north eastern states of the country either by rail, road or water ways. The Indian railways and state governments were directed to take all measures necessary to ensure strict compliance of this directions. Railways were asked to shift immediate to concert tracks than to using wooden sleepers. Defense establishments were also asked to find alternatives to consumption of wood based products; 4). A High power Committee was to be constituted to oversee the implementation of the judgment and to guide the Court in making further orders, especially in the North East. The Committee was directed to prepare an inventory of timber and timber products lying in the forest, transport depots and mills in the region. The HPC was empowered to permit the use or sale of timber products if it considered appropriate through the State Forest Corporation.; 5) Licenses given to all wood based industries shall stand suspended; 6) An action plan shall be prepared by the Principal Chief Conservator of Forest for intensive patrolling and other necessary protective measures to be undertaken in identified vulnerable areas an d quarterly report shall be submitted to the Central Government for approval.