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Campaign against Illegal Tree felling in Bangalore

Current Situation

The Karnataka Preservation of Trees Act, 1976 (Karnataka Act No. 76 oF 1976)

(First published in the Karnataka Gazette Extraordinary on the fourth day of December 1976)

(Received the assent of the governor on the first day of December 1976)

An act to make better provision for preservation of trees in the state.

Whereas with the growing pace of urbanization, industrialization and increasing population, there has been indiscriminate felling of a large number of tree in the rural and urban areas of the state of karnataka leading to erratic to rainfall, famines and floods, soil erosion and consequent ecological disturbances;

Whereas it is expedient to provide for the preservation of trees in the state by regulating the felling of trees and for the planting of adequate number of trees to restore ecological balance and for matters connected therewith;

Be it enacted by the Karnataka State Legislature in the twenty-seventh year of the Republic of India as follows: -

CHAPTER-1

1. Short title, extent and commencement

(1) This act may be called the Karnataka Preservation of Trees Act, 1976.

(2). It extends to the whole of the State of Karnataka.

(3). This section shall be deemed to have come into force on the seventeenth day of July 1976 and other provisions shall come into force on such date as the state government may by notification appoint and different dates may be appointed for different provisions of this act and this act for different urban areas or rural areas or parts thereof.

2. Definitions

(1) In this Act, unless the context otherwise requires. -

  1. 'appointed day' in relation to any area means the date notified under sub- section (3) of Section 1;
  2. 'local authority' means a Municipal Corporation or a Municipal Council or a Notified Area Committee or a Taluk Development Board;
  3. 'preservation of trees' means, maintenance and protection of tree to encourage normal growth and prevent damage or cutting of felling and includes planting of new trees and transplanting trees;
  4. 'relevant act' means the enactment under which a local authority is constituted;
  5. 'rural area' means an area and of the kind specified in Schedules I and II;
  6. 'to fell a tree' means severing the trunk from the roots, uprooting the tree and includes burning or cutting or girdling or applying arboricides to a tree to cause substantial damage thereto or destruction thereof;
  7. 'tree' means any woody plant whose branches springs from and are supported upon a trunk or body and which trunk or body is not less than five and a half centimeters in diameter and not less than one metre in height from the ground level and includes palms, bamboos, stumps, brushwood canes and seedlings of such tree but does not include sandal and rosewood trees;
  8. 'tree officer' means a forest officer appointed as such by the Chief Conservator of Forests (General) for the purposes of this Act;
  9. 'urban area' means an area comprising a Municipal Corporation, a Municipality or a Notified Area Committees;
  10. 'wood lot' means any piece of land of which trees from the main crop, the average number of such tree in each hectare being not less than twenty-five.

(2) Words and expressions used herein but not defined shall have the meanings assigned to them in the relevant Act.

CHAPTER-II
TREE AUTHORITY

3. Establishment of the tree authority

(1) the State Government shall, by notification, constitutes a Tree Authority for each area and for rural area.

(2) Such Authority shall consist of five members as follows:-

  1. For an urban area
    1. The Mayor President of the Municipal corporation, the Municipal council or the Notified Area Committee, as the case may be;
    2. The Divisional Forest Officer or his nominee;
    3. The District Horticultural Officer having jurisdiction;
    4. The Municipal Commissioner or the Chief Executive Officer, as the case may be; and
    5. one member of the Municipal Corporation, the Municipal Council or the Notified Area Committee, as may be, nominated by the Mayor or the President, as the case may be:
  2. Provided that where the Corporation or the Municipal Council or the Notified Area Committee is superseded, such person as the State Government may nominate shall be the member.

  3. For a rural area specified in Schedule I: -
    1. the concerned Conservator of Forests having jurisdiction;
    2. the Special Deputy Commissioner and where there is no Special Deputy Commissioner, the Deputy Commissioner of the district.
    3. the Superintending Engineer, Communication and buildings having jurisdiction; and
    4. two non-official members appointed by the State Government
  4. For a rural area specified in Schedule II-
    1. the President of the Taluk Development Board;
    2. the Block Development Officer having jurisdiction;
    3. the Assistant Conservator of Forests nominated by the Divisional Forest Officer;
    4. the district horticultural officer having jurisdiction;
    5. one member of the Taluk Development Board nominated by the President;
  5. Provided that where a Taluk Development Board is superseded, such person as the State Government may nominate.

(3) The State Government shall appoint one of the members to be the Chairman.

(4) The Tree Authority may co-opt in such manner and for such period as it may determine not more than three representatives of non-official organisations having special knowledge or practical experience in the preservation of trees.

4. Meetings of the Tree Authority.

(1) The Tree Authority shall meet at least once in three months at such place and time as the Chairman may decide and shall conduct its business in such manner as may be prescribed.

(2) The quorum to constitute a meeting of the Tree Authority shall be one-third of the total number of its members.

CHAPTER III
OFFICERS AND SERVANTS

5. Appointment of tree officer. -

(1)The chief conservator of forests (General) may, subject to sub-section (2) appoint for each urban area and rural area one or more Forest Officers as Tree Officers for the purpose of this Act.

(2) Such tree Officer shall ---

  1. in an urban area comprising of a Municipality Corporation, be not below the rank of an Assistant Conservator for the Forests;
  2. in an urban area comprising of a Municipality or Notified Area Committee, be not below the rank of a Range Forest Officer;
  3. in a rural area of the kind specified in Schedule II, be not below the rank of a Range Forest Officer;
  4. in a rural area of the kind specified in Schedule I, be not below the rank of Divisional Forest Officer.

6. Appointment of other officers. - The Chief Conservator of Forests (General) may from time to time, appoint such other officers and servants to assist the Tree Officer as he may consider necessary be subordinate to the Tree Officer.

CHAPTER IV
DUTIES OF TREE AUTHORITY

7. Duties of tree authority. Notwithstanding anything in the relevant Act any other law for the time being in force, the Tree Authority shall, subject to any general or special orders of the State Government, be responsible for

  1. the preservation of all trees within its jurisdiction;
  2. carrying out a census of the existing trees and obtaining, whenever considered necessary, declarations from all owners or occupants about the numbers of trees in their lands;
  3. specifying the standards regarding the number and kind of trees which each locality, type of land and premises shall have and which shall be planted subject to a minimum of five trees per hectare in the case of rural areas;
  4. development and maintenance of nurseries, supply of seeds, saplings and trees to persons who desire or are required to plant new trees or to replace trees which have been felled;
  5. planting and transplanting of trees necessitated by construction of new roads or widening of existing roads or replacement of trees which have failed to come up along roads or for safeguarding danger to life and property;
  6. organisation of demonstration and extension services for the purposes of this Act and assisting private and public institutions connected with planting and preservation of trees;
  7. planting and maintaining such number of trees as may be considered necessary according to the prescribed standards on roads, in public parks and gardens and on the banks of rivers or lakes or seashores; and
  8. undertaking such schemes or measures as may be directed from time by the state government for achieving the objects of the Act.

CHAPTER-V
RESTRICTION ON FELLING OF TREES AND LIABILITY FOR PRESERVATION OF TREES.

8. Restriction on felling of tree. -

(1) With effect on and from the appointed day, notwithstanding any custom, usage contract or law for the time being in force, no person shall fell any tree or cause any tree to be felled in any land, whether in his ownership or occupancy or otherwise, except with the previous permission of the Tree Officer.

(2) Any person desiring to fell, a tree shall apply in writing to the concerned Tree Officer for permission in that behalf. A site plan or survey sketch specifying clearly the site or survey number shall accompany the application, the number, kind and girth of the tree sought to be cut and the reasons therefor along with the consent of the owner or occupant.

(3) On receipt of the application, the Tree Officer may, after inspecting the tree and holding such inquiry as he deems necessary, either grant permission in whole or in part or refuse permission.

Provided that permission shall not be refused, if the tree,-

  1. is dead, diseased or wind-fallen; or
  2. has silviculturally matured; or
  3. constitutes a danger to life or property; or
  4. constitutes obstruction to traffic; or
  5. is substantially damaged or destroyed by fire, lightning, rain or other natural causes; or
  6. is required in rural areas to be removed either for extension of the cultivation in areas specified in schedule II or for the bona fide use of the applicant.

(4) If the Tree Officer fails to inform the applicant of his decision-

  1. In the case of an application in respect of a tree in an urban area and in rural area of the kind specified in Schedule II, within sixty days; and
  2. In the case of an application in respect of a tree in a rural area of the kind specified in schedule I, within one year from the date of receipt of the application by him or, if the receipt of the application has been acknowledged by him from the date of such acknowledgment, such permission shall be deemed to have been granted.

(5) Where permission to fell a tree is granted, the Tree Officer may grant it subject to the condition that the applicant shall plant another tree or trees of the same or any other suitable species on the same site or other suitable place within thirty days from the date the tree is felled or within such extended time as the Tree Officer may allow.

(6) Notwithstanding anything contained in sub-sections- (1) to (5) but subject to such conditions and restrictions as may be prescribed, for bona fide domestic use of a family, one or more members of such family may, if they are otherwise entitled to do so, would fetch 1[not more than 2.8 cubic meters of timber and five tonnes of firewood.]

2[(7) Nothing in this section shall apply to felling of 3[Casuarina, Coconut, Erythrina, Fucalyptus, Glyrecidia, Hopea, Wightina, Prosipis, Rubber, Sesbania, Silver Oack and Subabul trees]

  1. Substituted by Act, 21 of 1977, S, 2 (29th July 1977)
  2. Inserted by Act, 21 of 1977, s, 2 (29th July 1977)
  3. Substituted by Act No 39 of 1987 Dt. (1-12-1987)

9. Planting of adequate number of trees. -

(1) Every owner or occupant of a land shall, within a period of five years from the appointed day or within such extended period as the Tree Authority may specify, plant trees so to conform to the standards prescribed by the tree authority under clause of Section 7.

(2) If in the opinion of the Tree Officer the number of tree in any land is not adequate according to the standards referred to in sub-section (1), the Tree Officer may by order giving a reasonable opportunity to the owner or occupier of the land of making representation, require him to plant such trees, or additional trees, as the case may be, and at such places in the land as may be specified in the order.

(3) The owner or occupier of the land shall comply with such order within thirty days from the receipt thereof or such extended time as the tree officer may allow in this behalf.

10. Planting in place of fallen or destroyed trees: -

(1) Where any tree has fallen or is destroyed by wind, fire lightning, torrential rain or such other natural causes, the tree office may suo moto or on information given to him, after holding such enquiry as he deems fit, by order, require such owner or occupier to plant a tree in place of the tree so or destroyed, of the same or other species at the same or other suitable place as may be specified in the order.

(2) The owner of the occupier of the land shall comply with such order within thirty days from the receipt thereof or such extended time as the tree officer may allow.

11. Preservation of trees. - Subject to the provisions of section 12, it shall be the duty of the owner or occupier of the land who is required by an order under section 8, 9 or 10 to plant a tree or tees to ensure that they grow properly and are well preserved.

12. Adoption of trees. - Notwithstanding anything contained in this Act or in any other law for the time being in force, the tree authority may, subject to such terms and conditions as it may specify in that behalf, permit any individual, body corporate or institution to adopt any tree for such period as may be specified therein and during such period the said individual, body corporate or institution shall be responsible for the maintenance and preservation of the said tree.

13. Recovery of expenditure on failure to comply with order for planting trees. - Where the owner or occupier fails to comply with an order made by the Tree Officer under section 8, 9 or 10, the tree officer may, after giving a reasonable opportunity to such owner or occupier of making representation and without prejudice to any other action which may be taken against the defaulter under this Act take necessary action himself and recover the expenditure incurred therefor from the owner or the occupier, as the case may be. If such expenditure is not paid within the time specified by the Tree Officer, the amount along with interest at six per cent annum and other expense, if any, shall be recovered as if it were an a arrear of land revenue.

14. Appeal.

(1) Against the order of the Tree Officer under section 8, 9 or 10, an appeal shall lie to the Tree Authority.

(2) Such appeals shall be filed within thirty days from the date the decision is communicated to the owner or occupier of the land and shall be accompanied by a fee of one hundred rupees.

(3) The Tree Authority shall decide the appeal after giving to the appellant a reasonable opportunity of being heard. The decision of the Tree Authority shall be final.

(4) Where an appeal is made in time, the period for compliance specified in the order of the Tree Officer shall be reckoned from the date on which the appeal is decided against the appellant and where the appeal is allowed the fee paid under subsection (2) shall be refunded to the appellant.

(5) Every appeal shall be heard by not less than three members of the Tree Authority.

CHAPTER VI
PENALITIES AND PROCEDURE

15. Seizure of property. - Where the tree officer has reason to believe than an offence under this act is committed in respect of any tree, he may seize the tools and any boats, vehicles or other conveyances or animals used for the commission of the said offence along with the tree or part thereof which has been severed from the ground or the trunk, as the case may be.

16. Power to release property seized under section 15. - The Tree Officer may release the properties seized under Section 15 if the owner or occupier executes a bond for their production whenever required.

17. Power to arrest without warrant. -

(1) Any Tree Officer may arrest without warrant any person reasonably suspected of having been concerned in any offence under this Act, if such person refuses to give his name and residence or gives a name or residence which the Tree Officer has reason to believed is false if he has reason it believe that person will abscond.

(2) Any person arrested under this section shall be informed, as soon as may be, of the grounds for such arrest and shall be produced before the nearest magistrate having jurisdiction in the case within a period of twenty-four hours of such arrest, excluding the time necessary for the journey from the place of arrest to the court of the magistrate and no such person shall be detained in custody beyond in the said period without the authority of a magistrate.

18. Power to release a person arrested. - Any tree officer who has arrested any person any person under the provisions of section 17 may release such person on his executing a bond with proper surety to appear, if and when so required, before the magistrate having jurisdiction in the case, or before the police or the Tree Officer concerned.

19. Power to prevent commission not barred. Every Tree Officer or his subordinates or any forest, revenue or police officer shall prevent and may interfere for the purpose of preventing, the commission of any offence under the Act.

20. Operation of other laws not barred. Nothing in this act shall be deemed to prevent any person from being prosecuted under any other law for any act or omission which constitutes an offence under this Act or from being liable under such other law to any higher punishment or penalty than that provided by this act or the rules made thereunder: Provided that no person shall be punished twice for the some offence.

21. Power to compound offences.

(1) The State Government may, by order, empower a Tree Officer, -

  1. to compound on payment of a sum not exceeding five thousand rupees any offence under this act;
  2. to release any propriety seized or liable to confiscation, on payment of the value thereof, as estimated by such officer.

(2) On the payment of such sum or such value or both, as the case may be, to such officer, the offender, if in custody, shall be released. The property, if any, seized shall be released and no further proceedings shall be taken against such offender or property.

22. Penalty. - Any person who contravenes any of the provisions of this Act or orders made thereunder shall, on conviction be punishable with imprisonment which may extend to three months or with fine which may extend to one thousand rupees or with both. Upon such conviction the court may order any property in respect of which the offence is committed to be forfeited to the State Government.

CHAPTER VII
MISCELLANEOUS

23. Rules. -

(1) The State Government may, by notification, make rules to carry out the purposes of this Act.

(2) Every rule made under this Act shall be laid, as soon as may be after it is made, before each house of the state legislature, while it is in session for a total period of thirty days which may be comprised in one session or in two or more successive sessions, and if before the expiry of the session immediately following the session or the successive sessions aforesaid, both Houses agree in making any modification in the rule or both Houses agree that the rule should not be made, the rule shall from the date on which the modification or annulment is notified by the Government in the Official Gazette have effect only in such modified from on be of no effect, as the case may be, so however that any such modification or annulment shall be without prejudice to the validity of anything previously done under such rule.

24. Indemnity. - No suit, prosecution or other legal proceedings shall lie against any officer for anything done or omitted to be done by him in good faith under this Act or the rules or orders made thereunder.

25. Investing tree officer with certain powers. -

(1) The State Government may, by notification, invest the Tree Officers and other officers with all or any of the following powers, namely: -

  1. power to enter upon any land and to survey, demarcate and make a map of the same;
  2. powers of a Civil Court to compel the attendance of witnesses and the production of documents and material objects;
  3. power to issue a search warrant under the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973;
  4. power to hold inquiries into offences under the Act and in the course of such inquiry to receive and record evidence;
  5. power to take possession of property under the Act;
  6. power to direct release of property or withdrawal of charges;
  7. power to insist any person to plant tree or trees of suitable species in adequate numbers on any land owned or occupied by him.

(2) Any evidence recorded under clause (d) of sub-section (1) shall be admissible in any subsequent trial before a magistrate if such evidence has been taken in the presence of the accused person and recorded in the manner provided by section 355, section 356 or section 367 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1973.

26. Transit of felled materials - The provisions of section 50 of the Karnataka Forest Act, 1963 (Karnataka Act 5 of 1964) and Chapter XVI of the Karnataka Forest Rules shall, mutatis mutandis, apply to the transit of the felled trees under this Act.

27. Power of state government and the tree authority to give directions The state government may from time to time give to the Tree Authority any Tree Officer and officers subordinate to him and the Tree Authority may give to the Tree Officer or officers subordinate to him, such general or special directions regarding the discharge of their functions and for carrying out effectively the purposes of this Act and such Tree Authority or Tree Officers shall comply with the directions issued.

ESG is an independent not-for-profit organisation that promotes the cause of environmental and social justice through research, documentation, advocacy, training and campaign support. We aim to support the rights of local communities and voiceless ecosystems in a responsible, progressive manner that keeps contextual complexities in mind.

See Hasire Usiru for current information on tree felling in Bangalore.

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