The Karnataka High Court last month upheld the Constitutional validity of the substituted sub rule 2A of Rule 163, of the Karnataka Forest Amendment Rules, 2013, thereby disallowing establishment of new saw mills or any other sawing contrivances within the limits of any reserved forest, protected forest or district forest.
A division bench of Chief Justice Abhay Oka and Justice Ashok S Kingai dismissed the petition filed by Coorg Wildlife Society and M Satish Gore, who had challenged the validity of the amendment and prayed for declaring it as illegal and struck down the same . The petitioners raised two contentions firstly, that the amendment was not placed before and approved by the state legislature. Secondly, the substituted sub rule (2A) runs completely contrary to the directions contained in the judgement passed by the Supreme Court in the case of T N Godavarman Vs Union of India and others.
It was argued that by virtue of second proviso to substituted sub-rule (2A), it is possible to set up a saw mill within a forest area. Therefore, the impugned amendment will have to be struck down in as much as it runs contrary to the general directions issued in the aforesaid judgment of the Apex Court.
The Additional Government Advocate placed on record memo dated 12th March, 2020 enclosing there with documents to show that the Amendment Rules were placed before both the Houses of Legislature, on December, 9 2014.
The bench said "No doubt, first part of the substituted sub-rule (2A) permits establishment of a saw mill or any other sawing contrivance for cutting or converting timber, anywhere in the State after obtaining a license. However, first proviso makes it very clear that no new saw mills or any other sawing contrivances shall be established within the limits of any reserved forest, protected forest or district forest. It further provides that new saw mills or any
other sawing contrivance shall not be established within the limits of or within an aerial distance (as the crow-flies) of ten kilometers from the limits of any reserved forest, protected forest or district forest. The second proviso does not permit establishment of a saw mill or any other sawing contrivance within the limits of municipal and industrial area which falls within the area of reserved forest, protected forest or district forest."
The bench clarified that the basis of the decision in the case of T.N. Godavarman is not taken away by the amendment Rules, running of saw mills of any kind including veneer or ply-wood mills is not permissible within the expanded definition of "forest" as laid down in the said decision of the Apex Court dated 12th December, 1996 without prior approval of the Central Government as required by Section 2 of the Forest Conservation Act, 1980. We make it clear that notwithstanding substituted sub-rule (2A) of Rule 163 of the Rules, the restriction as provided in the aforesaid decision of the Apex Court in relation to the area covered by expanded meaning of forest given under the said judgment stands. The sub-rule (2A) of Rule 163 is not inconsistent or contrary to the said decision of the Apex Court.
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