Madras High Court directs Tamil Nadu govt. to acquire all private forests situated within notified elephant corridors

Justice C. Saravanan also orders thorough examination of patta granted for those forest lands during the British era and cancel them, if necessary, by following due process of law

Updated - August 17, 2023 09:45 pm IST

Published - August 17, 2023 09:21 pm IST - CHENNAI

The orders were passed while denying permission for cutting around 12 lakh bamboo shoots from 107 acres of a private forest land.

The orders were passed while denying permission for cutting around 12 lakh bamboo shoots from 107 acres of a private forest land.

Observing that elephants and other animals cannot be deprived of food and shelter, grown either spontaneously or silviculturally, in their natural habitat, the Madras High Court has directed the State government to acquire all private forests that fall within the notified elephant corridor on Sigur Plateau in the Nilgiris district.

Justice C. Saravanan also directed the State government to conduct a thorough examination as to how ryotwari (farming) or other kinds of Patta (revenue document to prove land ownership) were granted to the owners of private forests during the British era and take steps for cancellation, if necessary, by following due process of law.

The orders were passed while denying permission for cutting around 12 lakh bamboo shoots from 107 acres of private forest land which formed part of Singara Estate spread over 800 acres at Masinagudi village in Udhagamandalam taluk and had been notified as an elephant corridor through a government order issued on August 31, 2010.

The judge dismissed a writ petition filed by the estate owner M. Guruchand Vaid seeking permission to cut the silviculturally matured, flowered bamboo from his private land and concurred with Additional Advocate General V. Arun that the elephants would be deprived of food if the bamboos were allowed to be cut.

“As long as the land is located in the elephant corridor, question of cutting or clearing bamboos whether grown spontaneously or siliviculturally cannot be allowed to be harvested by the petitioner as bamboo is a staple diet of elephants. Only if the land does not fall within the elephant corridor, the petitioner may be entitled for permission under Section 3(2) of the Tamil Nadu Preservation of Private Forest Act, 1949,” the judge wrote.

Though the petitioner had contended that his land would not fall within the purview of the elephant corridor, the judge said, the dispute raised by the petitioner was still pending before the Sigur Plateau Elephant Corridor Inquiry Committee constituted by the Supreme Court on October 14, 2020 under the chairmanship of Madras High Court retired judge K. Venkataraman.

Therefore, “as the things stand now, the petitioner cannot be given permission to remove bamboo from the lands in Masinagudi village as they fall within the elephant corridor notified under G.O.Ms.No.125 Environment & Forests (FR.5) Department dated August 31, 2010. The petitioner has to cooperate in preserving the forest for forests are common heritage of all animals in their habitat in these forests,” the judge concluded.

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