What are deemed forests?

News: Karnataka Forest Minister has announced that the state government would soon declassify 6.64 lakh hectares of the 9.94 lakh hectares of deemed forests in the state (nearly 67%) and hand it over to Revenue authorities.

Facts:

  • Deemed Forest: The concept of deemed forests has not been clearly defined in any law including the Forest Conservation Act of 1980.
  • However, the Supreme Court in the case of T N Godavarman Thirumulpad(1996) had broadened the definition of the forest to include not just land classified as forest under forest or revenue departments but also those that are forests according to the definition of a forest.
  • It had also asked states to form committees to identify forests, irrespective of the nature of land ownership or whether they are notified, recognized, or classified in a time-bound manner.
  • Hence, an expert committee constituted by the Karnataka government after the Supreme Court order identified ‘deemed forests’ as “land having the characteristic of forests irrespective of the ownership’”.
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