FOREST AMENDMENT ACT 2023 (Syllabus: GS Paper 3 – Env and Eco)

News-CRUX-10     20th February 2024        

Context: The states and Union territories (UT) must act according to the definition of ‘forest’ as laid down in the landmark TN Godavarman Thirumalpad v. Union of India judgement issued in 1996, the Supreme Court said in an interim order.

Forest Conservation Amendment Act 2023

  • Exempted Categories of Land: The Act exempts some types of land from the Act, including forest land along a railway line or a public road maintained by the government.
  • Assignment/Leasing of Foreign Land: The Act extends the prior approval requirement for assigning forest land to all entities, including government-owned ones. The approval must be subject to terms and conditions prescribed by the central government.
  • Land Under the Purview of the Act: It defines forest land as either land that is notified as a forest under the IFA, 1927 or any other law, or land that is notified as a forest on or after Oct 25, 1980, in a government record.
  • Permitted Activities in Forest Land: The Act restricts de-reservation of forests or use of forest land for non-forest purposes, but the central government may approve such use with conditions.

Interpretation of "Deemed Forest" in TN Godavarman Thirumalpad v. Union of India judgement (1996)

  • Expansive Definition: The court in its 1996 judgment expanded the definition of a "deemed forest" beyond the traditional notion of a forest as a large area with significant tree cover.
  • Inclusion Criteria: It encompassed areas recorded as forests in government records, regardless of the presence of significant tree cover or ownership status.
  • Protection under Forest Conservation Act, 1980: The judgment extended protection to vast tracts of eco-sensitive and Adivasi lands, irrespective of their formal classification as "forests" in revenue records.


  • The Act empowers: The central government to demand proper compensation (compensatory afforestation) for any forest land diverted for non-forestry purposes. 

oIt also extends its jurisdiction to land that is not officially designated as "forest" in government records at the state or central level.

  • Penalties: This Act provides penalties for the infringement of the provisions of this Act.
  • Advisory committee: It may be formed for advising the Central government in matters related to forest conservation.