The Kerala High Court on Tuesday held that the state had to obtain prior permission from the Centre under the Forest Act while renewing the lease of forest lands. “It is the duty of each and every citizen of the state to protect and endeavour to see that the rich flora and fauna of the state will not be damaged or destroyed,” the court said.
A Division Bench comprising Acting Chief Justice Manjula Chellur and Justice A M Shaffique passed the order while considering a petition filed by Niyamavedi of Kochi challenging the state’s move to assign nearly thousand hectares of forest area at Mankulam, in Idukki, and Nelliyampathy to plantation owners.
The court observed that the government has not taken any decision to assign 1,000 hectares of land, except with regard to the granting of title deeds (patta) to the holders of land possessed prior to January 1, 1977. “There is no positive decision as such to part with the forest land either by assignment of land or by renewal of lease as alleged by the petitioners,” the court said.
The court directed the state to strictly adhere to the legal procedure and follow the Supreme Court directions. The petitioner sought a directive not to extend and renew the forest land lease comprising nearly 10,000 hectares in the cardamom hill reserve in the Idukki district and Nelliyampathy.
The government decision was a violation of norms in the Forest Conservation Act, the petitioner said.