The Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980


The Forest (Conservation) Act was passed on October 25, 1980. It contains five sections which set forth regulations concerning forest conservation and matters related to it. It aims to restrict the conversion of any reserved forest into unreserved land and check the indiscriminate use of forest land for non-forest purposes. As per the website of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, government of India, the Act aims to maintain a sustainable balance between the “developmental needs of the country and the conservation of natural heritage.”


  1. What are reserved forests?

    The Act states that ‘reserved forest’ is to be defined as per the relevant state government law in force at the time.

  2. What are the areas to which the provision of the Act extends?

    The Forest Act is applicable to the whole country. The words “except the State of Jammu and Kashmir” were removed from the Act after the abrogation of Article 370 in August 2019.

  3. What does the Act say about the conversion and use of reserved forest lands?

    Without the approval of the Union government, says Section 2 of the Act, no state government or any other authority is allowed to make the following orders – that a reserved forest or a portion of it shall cease to be reserved; that any portion of it may be used for non-forest purposes; that any forest land should be assigned or leased to an individual, authority, corporation, agency or organisation not “owned, managed or controlled” by the government. State governments may not approve the clearing of trees which have grown naturally in a portion of forest land for purposes of reafforestation without the Centre’s consent.

  4. What does ‘non-forest purpose’ mean?

    The use of forest land for non-forest purpose refers to the usage of forest land for any purpose but reafforestation, or for the cultivation of items such as tea, coffee, spices, rubber, palms, oil-bearing plants, horticultural crops or medicinal plants.

    This definition does not include the usage of forest land for any work relating to the conservation, development and management of forests and wildlife. Such work includes “…the establishment of check-posts, fire lines, wireless communications and construction of fencing, bridges and culverts, dams waterholes, trench marks, boundary marks, pipelines or other like purposes.”

  5. Who has the power to make rules regarding this Act?

    The central government, if it so deems, can make rules for the implementation of the provisions under this Act by a notification in the Gazette of India. Each rule would then be presented for approval before the parliament. 

  6. Where can one appeal against orders under the provisions of this Act?

    The Act states that any person aggrieved by an order made by the state government or any other authority, relating the provisions of this Act, can appeal to the National Green Tribunal. The said order must have been made on a date on or after the National Green Tribunal Act, 2010, came into force.

  7. What is the penalty for contravening the Act’s provisions?

    Whoever contravenes the provisions of Section 2 is liable to be punished with simple imprisonment for a period extendable to 15 days. The Act also contains provisions for when government officials and other authorities commit offences under the Act.

    Focus and Factoids by Mayank Labh.


Ministry of Law and Justice


Government of India, New Delhi


27 Dec, 1980