A local court has directed two people to plant 100 saplings and ensure their survival for three years, after they were found guilty of cutting trees in a protected forest in Madhya Pradesh’s Jhabua district, the government prosecutor said on Thursday.
The court also asked the two people – who will plant 50 saplings each -- and the forest department to submit periodic reports and evidence on implementing the order, said Rajendra Pal Singh Alawa.
“The decision will set an example before society for nature’s conservation,” the public prosecutor said, adding it is the first time such a forward-looking verdict has been passed in Jhabua.
The judicial magistrate first class passed the order on Tuesday after holding Ramesh Chouhan and Bhuru Singh guilty under the Indian Forest Act, of encroaching and cutting trees at Talvali village, around 200 km from Indore.
The court hopes the trees will survive on their own after three years.
‘Court’s judgement will set an example before society’
Petrick Rawat, ranger, Jhabua forest range said that the court’s judgement was apt for the crime the duo had committed, and it will set an example before society.
The duo said they will challenge the verdict in a higher court.
Chouhan and Singh said their families have been farming on the land for decades and are the owners of the trees. They also claimed to have applied for rights over the land.
Forest department officials, however, said the two cut down the trees to turn the forest into a farmland and then claim it.
Madhya Pradesh accounts for more than 12% of the country’s forest cover, according to the State of Forest Report, 2015, though the figure is also attributed to the size of the state.
Officials and activists, however, say that increasing demand for land for agriculture and industries to support a growing population were taking a heavy toll on the state’s forests. According to rough estimates, the state was losing its forest cover at a rate of six per cent every year.
Bharti Soni, an activist who heads a green NGO named Sankalp, said the court’s decision will give fillip to conservation efforts in the state.