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SC directs States/UTs to Adhere to Godavarman Judgment’s Forest Definition

Why is it in the news?

  • The Supreme Court issued an interim order directing States and Union Territories to adhere to the definition of “forest” established in the N. Godavarman Thirumalpad vs. Union of India case in 1996.
  • This directive specifically applies when identifying land recorded as forests in Government records under the Forest Conservation Act of 1980, as amended in 2023.


Context of the Case

  • The interim order was issued during the hearing of several writ petitions challenging the amendments made to the Forest Conservation Act in 2023.
  • Petitioners argued that the broad definition of ‘forest’ established in the Godavarman judgment was being restricted by section 1A of the 2023 amendment.
  • They pointed out that this narrowed definition could potentially exclude approximately 1.99 lakh square kilometers of forest land from being considered as such.


Recent Interim Order

  • The Supreme Court instructed States and Union Territories to temporarily apply the dictionary definition of “forest” while assessing land activities, following Rule 16 and the principles outlined in the T.N. Godavarman judgment.
  • Additionally, the Court directed the Union of India to request detailed records from all States/UTs regarding lands identified as forests by their respective expert committees, as per the T.N. Godavarman judgment.
  • Furthermore, the Court imposed a prohibition on the establishment of zoos or safaris in these areas without prior court approval.


T.N. Godavarman Thirumulpad v Union of India (1996) Judgment

路聽聽聽聽聽聽 The Forest Conservation Act of 1980 was enacted to safeguard India鈥檚 forests from industrial exploitation and to promote reforestation.

路聽聽聽聽聽聽 Under this act, the Central government has the authority to regulate the extraction of forest resources by industries and forest-dwelling communities. This regulation applies only to areas officially designated as ‘forest’ in Central or State government records.

路聽聽聽聽聽聽 The T.N. Godavarman Thirumulpad v Union of India case brought about a significant ruling that broadened the protection of forests.

路聽聽聽聽聽聽 The Court ruled that areas meeting the ‘dictionary’ definition of forests are to be protected, irrespective of whether they have been officially notified by the government or recorded in historical documents.



路聽聽聽聽聽聽 It’s important to note that India lacks a universally accepted definition of ‘forest,’ with each state having its own definition.

路聽聽聽聽聽聽 This lack of uniformity can lead to inconsistencies in the identification and protection of forested areas.

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