The Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) is formulating a special legislation for regulating the trade and cultivation of sandalwood in the country. This is the first time that a separate legislation is being enacted for a particular tree species. All other varieties of trees are covered under the Indian Forest Act, 1927. Sandalwood is found in MP in Sagar, Seoni, Shajapur, Sehore and Mandsaur districts.
Additional principal chief conservator of forests (APCCF) RN Saxena, who is a member of the Union government appointed drafting committee of the Sandalwood Act, said the objective behind the legislation is to regulate the cultivation, trade and import of sandalwood. "Sandalwood has applications in religious rituals, cosmetics and the health sector and cannot be banned completely. While the existing legal framework was found inadequate, there is a need to regulate it through a special Act," said Saxena.
The draft of the Act has been submitted to the MoEF and deals with two genera of sandalwood, santalum and osirus. "The osirus genus is found in Australia and is imported to India and its dust is used in pan masala," said Saxena. "It was found that pan masala manufacturers were using dust from the santalum genus found in India under the guise of the osirus genus," he added. Cases of illegal use of sandalwood could not stand trial in court as the genus osirus is not found in India and hence not covered under the Indian Forest Act, 1927.
In the draft, the punishment for contravention has been increased to 10 years and a fine of rupees one lakh has also been introduced. The punishment for other tree species under the Indian Forest Act, 1927 is three years. The draft provides for keeping up to five kilograms of sandalwood and 100 grams of oil. It also provides for registration of grower, trader and importer- presently not there in the Indian Forest Act, 1927. Sandalwood is presently on the open general list (OGL) of the export import (EXIM) policy. Sandalwood fetches anything between Rs 15 to 20 lakh per cubic metre while the best quality teak costs Rs 40,000 per cubic metre.
Once the MoEF goes through the draft, it will be forwarded to the cabinet sub-committee formed for the purpose. The draft will then be vetted by the commerce and industries ministry, food ministry and the religious trusts department of state governments before it is put up in Parliament for passage. Other members of the drafting committee include principal chief conservator of forests (PCCF), Karnataka, BK Singh, chief conservator of forests (CCF), Tamil Nadu, RK Upadhyay and inspector general (IG), MoEF, Ashok Singh as the member secretary.
THE NEW LAW'S DRAFT
·The Union Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF) is formulating the special legislation
·To regulate the cultivation, trade and import of sandalwood
·Deals with two genera of sandalwood: santalum and osirus
·The punishment for contravention has been increased to 10 years
·Fine of a lakh rupees has also been introduced
·Five kilograms of sandalwood and 100 grams of oil can be kept
·Provides for registration of grower, trader and importer- presently not there in the Indian Forest Act, 1927.