Law, Judiciary and Environmental Governance: Rethinking the Evolution of Forest Laws in India

By Nayan Agrawal and Ishita Pant.

Published by The Sustainability Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

This paper seeks to examine the manner in which the Supreme Court of India, through the T.N. Godavarman Thirumulpad v. Union of India & Ors., has had an impact on the discourse as well as the praxis regarding the reformation of the entire country’s forest governance and management. It endeavours to make a captious analysis of the reforms brought about by the court allegedly, on account of ‘environmental protection’. The paper enquires into the raison d'être of the Court behind overreaching its jurisdiction and exercising powers which lie at the prerogative of the executive. The overstepping of its power by the Supreme Court while interpreting and redefining the scope of the Forest Conservation Act, 1980 has been deliberated upon. The genesis of the Godavarman case resulted in the suspension of the felling of trees across the entire country and aimed at revamping the licensing and functioning of the forest based industries. It placed a blanket ban on tree felling in three states and ordered saw mills in the region to close down. To manage the overwhelming issues of timber pricing and disposal of felled timber, the Supreme Court created a Central Empowered Committee, under the Environment (Protection) Act, 1986, giving it extensive powers to dispose of cases in accordance with the orders of the court and made it accountable to the Court alone. This led to multitudinous altercation regarding the environmental, constitutional and jurisdictional countenance of the forest laws developing thereinafter. The paper concludes that the exigency of the Central Empowered Committee could have been met by alternative means, striking forbearance with the federal structure, basic to the Indian democracy. A more careful perusal of the conclusion leads to elucidation regarding the efficacy of the ‘continuing mandamus’ as issued by the Supreme Court and the alternatives that could have been adopted.

Keywords: Central Empowered Committee, Federal Structure, Forest Laws, Godavarman Case, Judiciary

The International Journal of Environmental, Cultural, Economic and Social Sustainability, Volume 7, Issue 2, pp.27-38. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 821.189KB).

Nayan Agrawal

Student, Muzaffarpur, India

Ishita Pant

Student, Lucknow, India


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