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State govt has jurisdiction to declare any land as protected forest if it has proprietary rights: SC

The apex court said the High Court had referred to the objections filed by the lessees under the Consolidation Act and also objections by the Forest Department.

October 05, 2021 / 10:54 PM IST

A State government has the jurisdiction to declare any land as protected forest if the State has proprietary rights over such land, the Supreme Court said on Tuesday.

A bench of Justices Hemant Gupta and V Ramasubramanian said in terms of Section 4 of the Forest Act, the State Government can issue a notification to constitute any land as reserved forest.

The State Government has the jurisdiction to declare a protected forest if the land is the property of the Government over which proprietary rights are exercised, the bench said while setting aside the order granting ownership of land to a lessee.

The top court was hearing an appeal filed by the UP forest department challenging a judgement passed by the Allahabad high court which had set aside the order passed by the Deputy Director of Consolidation, Lucknow, wherein, the revenue entry of Khasra Nos. 1576 and 1738 were ordered to be corrected in the name of the Department of Forest and the claim of rival claimants were set aside.

The bench said that once the notification dated November 23, 1955, was published under Section 4 of the Forest Act, there could not be any transfer of right in the land so notified in favour of the lessee by the Gaon (village)Sabha.

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The apex court said the High Court had referred to the objections filed by the lessees under the Consolidation Act and also objections by the Forest Department.

The bench said that it was held by the High Court that since no objections were filed by the Forest Department earlier, therefore, the objections would be barred by Section 49 of the Consolidation Act.

We find that such finding recorded by the High Court is clearly erroneous.

The land vests in the Forest Department by virtue of notification published under a statute. It was the lessee who had to assert the title on the forest land by virtue of an agreement in writing by a competent authority but no such agreement in writing has been produced, the bench said.

The top court said the lessee would not be entitled to any right only on the basis of an entry in the revenue record.

In view thereof, we find that the order of the High Court cannot be sustained in law. The same is hereby set aside. The appeal is allowed. The order passed by the Deputy Director of Consolidation dated July 8, 2004, is restored, the bench said.

The notification dated November 23, 1955, satisfies the three conditions - - decision to constitute such land as reserved forest, situation, and limits of such land, and appointing an officer to inquire into and determine the existence, nature, and extent of any rights alleged to exist in favour of any person in or over any land comprised within such limits.

The lessees were not in possession of any part of the land at the time of issuance of such notification, the bench said.
PTI
first published: Oct 5, 2021 10:54 pm

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