Now, Rs 500 fine instead of 6 months imprisonment for cutting trees in forest

The ministry is undertaking a review of the Forest Act for amendments in certain sections of the Act.
Representational image  (Photo | EPS)
Representational image (Photo | EPS)

NEW DELHI: As a watering down of punishment for green violations, a fine of Rs 500 replaces 6 months imprisonment for illegal cutting of trees in the forest, trespassing, and taking timber, according to the new proposed amendment to India Forest Act (IFA), 1927 by the union environment ministry. This is part of a move to decriminalize some of the green violations.

The ministry is undertaking a review of the Forest Act for amendments in certain sections of the Act. The exercise is focused on decriminalization of relatively minor violations of law, expeditious resolution through the compounding of relatively smaller offenses, reducing the compliance burden on citizens, rationalization of penalties, and preventing harassment of citizens.

The Forest Act provides the legal framework for the protection and management of Forest, transit of Forest produce and timber, and the duty leviable on timber and other forest produce. IFA is an umbrella Act, which provides the basic architecture for the management of forests in the country including providing a mechanism to ensure notification of reserved, protected, and village forests, protection of Forest Resources, and Forest biodiversity & wildlife of the country.

The Act also provides certain acts which are prohibited or not allowed in forests for the protection and conservation of forests. In case of non-compliance with the provisions, directions are issued that the violator will be punished with up to 6 months imprisonment and Rs 500 fine.

"At times there are difficulties in differentiating between a major and minor offense and because of that punishment is often not distinct. This abuts habitual offenders to commit more crimes as there is the same level of punishment for both first-time and repeat offenders. Hence there is a need to incorporate differential Penal provisions in the Act by amending it," said the ministry.

This comes as the union environment ministry is looking to decriminalize violations under a series of green laws. Calling it a move to “weed out fear of imprisonment for simple violations”, the ministry has also proposed for amendment to the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974, Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981 and the Public Liability Insurance (PLI), Act 1991.

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