Bombay High Court: Anil S. Kilor, J., held that to declare land as private forest under Maharashtra Private Forest (Acquisition) Act, 1975, it is necessary for the land to fall under the ambit of ‘private forest’ under Section 2 (f) and notice has to be issued to the owner and to all other persons having an interest in such land, calling on them to show cause why such declaration should not be made.
Present petition is arising out of the order dated 08-03-2016 passed by Maharashtra Revenue Tribunal, Nagpur upholding the Collector’s Order declaring thereby the notices issued by the Range Forest Officer to the petitioner intimating that the Government has taken possession of the land owned by the petitioner as the land falls under the definition of Section 2(c–i)(f) of the Maharashtra Private Forest (Acquisition) Act, 1975.
Sunil Manohar, Senior Advocate assisted by Vidya Umale, Advocate for the petitioner and Barabde, Assistant Government Pleader for the respondents.
What does Section 3 of the Maharashtra Private Forest (Acquisition) Act, 1975 talk about?
Section 3 of the Act, 1975, speaks about the vesting of private forest in State Government.
It says that all private forests in the State shall stand acquired and vest, free from all encumbrances, in, and shall be deemed to be, with all rights in or over the same or appertaining thereto, the property of the State Government.
Further, it has been stipulated all rights, title and interest of the owner or any person other than Government subsisting in any such forest on the appointed day shall be deemed to have been extinguished.
Section 2 (f) of the Act, 1975, defines the ‘private forest’ means in case whether the State Government and any other persons are jointly interested in the forest, the interest of such person in such forest or sites of dwelling houses constructed in such forest which are considered to be necessary for the convenient enjoyment or use of the forest land appurtenant thereto.
Section 21 of the Act, 1975 mandates the Collector or any officer authorised in this behalf by State Government, to issue a notice to the owner and to all other persons having an interest in such land, calling on them to show cause why such declaration should not be made.
Section 21 makes it clear that a private land not covered by Clause-(f) of Section 2 can be declared as a ‘private forest’ and only those lands which are covered by Clause (f) of Section 2 will vest in the State Government in accordance of Section 3 of the Act, 1975.
On perusal of the notices issued by the Range Forest Officer, it is apparent that the said notices do not refer to any declaration under Section 21 or disclose how the land in question falls in the purview of the definition of ‘private forest’ under Section 2 (f).
Further, neither the Collector nor the Tribunal has noted any declaration under Section 21 of the Act 1975 or discussed any material wherefrom it can safely be said that the land owned by the petitioner falls within the purview of Section 2 (f) of the Act, 1975.
Hence, the Bench declared that without disclosing how the land owned by the petitioner falls within the ambit of definition of ‘private forest’ under the Act 1975 or without following the procedure laid down in the Act, to declare the land in question as ‘private forest’ is illegal.
Adding to the above, Court stated that the Collector and the Tribunal did not go into the issue of applicability of the Act, 1975 to the land owned by the petitioner.
In light of the above, matters need to be remanded to the Collector for fresh consideration by keeping all the contentions of the parties open.
It is further directed that the Collector shall consider the observations made hereinabove relating to provisions of Sections 2 (f) and 21 of the Act, 1975 while deciding the matter afresh.[Gaurakshan Sanstha, Arvi, v. Collector Wardha, 2020 SCC OnLine Bom 908, decided on 08-09-2020]