The state government has also reiterated the description the forest areas as per the provisions of the Indian Forest Act, 1972, and the December 1996 Supreme Court orders, in its communiqué to the union ministry of environment and forests (MoEF).
"The word forest must be understood according to its dictionary meaning. This description covers 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 land 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 Act 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," said the state government communiqué, quoting the Supreme court order.
The communication said the apex court order implies that description of forest land covers statutorily recognised forests (of whatever description) and the area recorded as forest in the government records. It does not need any elaboration that government records mean the revenue records, which have been assigned a presumptive value of truth under the law.
Regarding the statutorily recognised forests, the Indian Forest Act, 1927, is the only statute under which any area can be declared or notified as a forest of different descriptions - be it a reserve forest or a protected forest.
"The ministry would appreciate that any geo referenced district forest maps can be prepared only when the parameters for identification of such areas are delineated in accordance with the law and without any ambiguity. The state government has already prepared its geo referenced district forest maps in respect of 19 out of its 21 districts.
These are strictly in accordance with the report of the expert committee constituted in terms of the apex court orders of December 1996 and July 2011.
The same were submitted in 2013 and the forest department has not received any communication from the MoEF till date pointing deficiencies in these maps. There is no gain in saying any such fresh exercise would be non-productive unless there is a change in the parameter, which has to be first approved by the apex court, formally notified and then made applicable to the entire country," said the state government in its letter.