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There are no “Deemed Forests” under the Forest Conservation Act: Karnataka High Court

The Karnataka High Court has asked the authorities to evaluate the application for a licence for stone quarrying given the fact that there is no concept of “deemed forest” under law through A division bench Chief Justice Ritu Raj Awasthi and Justice Ashok S Kinagi in the case of D M Deve Gowda v. The Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (WRIT PETITION NO.10502 OF 2022)

FACTS OF THE CASE:

The question involved in the writ petition is whether the respondents can treat any land as “deemed forest”.

Given that there is no legal definition of “deemed forest,” the Karnataka high court had ordered the authorities to assess the request for a permit for stone quarrying in the Chikkamagaluru district. Additionally, it was requested that the respondent be given instructions allowing him to conduct stone quarrying on his property and issuing a quarrying licence.

The Court in the case of Dhananjay vs. State of Karnataka and others had categorically held that there is no concept of “deemed forest”. The Court was of the view that the land can either be a “forest” or a “forest land”, but there cannot be any “deemed forest” in absence of any provision under the Act.

JUDGEMENT:

The court noted that learned counsel for the petitioner and learned Additional Government Advocate appearing for the respondents agreed that this Court’s decision in the aforementioned judgement clearly covers the disagreement involved in the current writ petition.

It was stated, “As no inquiry is made by the concerned authorities on the question whether the lands are covered by the wide concept of “forest” or “forest land” adopted by the Apex court by the order dated 12th December 1996, we cannot grant a declaration that the properties subject matter of the petitions are not forest.”

In light of the aforementioned judgement, the court asked the respondents to evaluate the petitioner’s application for award of the quarrying licence/lease or renewal thereof within two months, while quashing the authority’s instructions.

The Court observed, “We, however, make it clear that as the concept of ‘deemed forests’ appears to be a foreign to the law, the applications cannot be rejected only on the ground that the lands subject matter are ‘deemed forests’.”

It was made apparent that we have not adjudicated the petitioner’s authority to award a lease, and the relevant Authority must review the matter after determining whether the land in question is a “forest” or a “forest land.” The Court stated “ It is needless to observe that if the concerned Authority finds that the land is a “forest” or a “forest land”, lease or extension of lease cannot be granted unless the consent of the Central Government is obtained as per Section 2 of the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980.”

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JUDGEMENT REVIEWED BY REETI SHETTY

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