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Rajasthan High Court dismisses PIL seeking direction to convert forest land for grazing purpose

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The Rajasthan High Court has dismissed a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) seeking direction to convert subject land identified as Forest and recorded as such, for non forest purposes such as for grazing purposes and pasture land.

The PIL has been filed by one Lokpal Singh Rao .

The Counsel for the State pointed out that the area has been identified as forest in view of the direction given by the Supreme Court in the case of T.N. Godavarma Thirumuplad Vs. Union of India & Ors. reported in (1997)2SCC267 wherein, the Court has held as under:

“The Forest Conservation Act, 1980 was enacted with a view to check further deforestation which ultimately results in ecological imbalance; and therefore, the provisions made therein for the conservation of forests and fore matters connected therewith, must apply to all forests irrespective of the nature of ownership or classification thereof. The word “forest: must be understood according to its dictionary meaning. This description cover all statutorily recognised forests, whether designated as reserved, protected or otherwise for the purpose of Section 2(i) of the Forest Conservation Act. The term “forest land”, occurring in Section 2, will not only include “forest” as understood in the dictionary sense, but also any area recorded as forest in the Government record irrespective of the ownership. This is how it has to be understood for the purpose of Section 2 of the Act. The provisions enacted in the Forest Conservation Act, 1980 for the conservation of forests and the matters connected therewith must apply clearly to all forests so understood irrespective of the ownership or classification thereof. This aspect has been made abundantly clear in the decisions of this Court in Ambica Quarry Works and Ors. versus State of Gujarat and Ors., Rural Litigation and Entitlement Kendra versus State of U.P. and recently in the order dated 29th November, 1996 in W.P.(C) No.749/95 (Supreme Court Monitoring Committee vs. Mussorie Dehradun Development Authority and ors.). The earlier decision of this Court in State of Bihar Vs. BanshiRam Modi and ors. has, therefore, to be understood in the light of these subsequent decisions. We consider it necessary to reiterate this settled position emerging from the decisions of this court to dispel the doubt, if any, in the perception of any State Government or authority. This has become necessary also because of the stand taken on behalf of the State of Rajasthan, even at this late stage, relating to permissions granted for mining in such area which is clearly contrary to the decisions of this court. It is reasonable to assume that any State Government which has failed to appreciate the correct position in law so far, will forthwith correct its stance and take the necessary remedial measures without any further delay.”

The Division Bench of Chief Justice Manindra Mohan Shrivastava and Justice Kuldeep Mathur observed that in view of the aforesaid direction issued by the Supreme Court and identification of the disputed land as forest, prayer sought in this petition cannot be allowed and is therefore rejected by the Court.

This order however shall not come in the way of the petitioner in approaching the authorities seeking any other land for being reserved for grazing purposes , the Court clarified.

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