A Supreme Court committee had said that state governments have no powers to denotify forestland without approval of the Supreme Court and central government.
Linking the Indian Forest Act, which gives powers to the state government to denotify a forest, with the Forest Conservation (FC) Act, which vests the same powers with the Centre, the court's central empowered committee said that unless approval under the FC Act is taken, denotification cannot take place. The CEC acts on the court's direction on forest issues.
"Before obtaining approval of the central government under FC Act, permission of the court is required as per judgment of 2000," the panel said in a recent report submitted to the court, with a reference to the Lafarge limestone mining case in Meghalaya.
The area's autonomous body had described the mining area as non-forestland; amicus curia Harish Salve rejected the view. There have been several instances of project proponents avoiding seeking the Centre's approval on the ground that the area was not a forestland.
"Once a forest, always a forest," the report said, emphasising how difficult it is to denotify a forest.
The report said that even if there is no tree in a forestland, it will have to be considered as forest under the FC Act, meaning that central approval will have to be taken before starting any project there.
The panel also clarified that putting forestland under the administrative control of the revenue department does not alter the forest status of the land.