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KANYAKUMARI DISTRICT PLANTERS ASSOCIATION, NAGARCOIL REP., BY ITS SECRETARY & OTHERS V/S THE STATE OF TAMIL NADU, REP., BY THE COMMISSIONER & SECRETARY TO GOVERNMENT, FORESTS & FISHERIES DEPARTMENT, CHENNAI & OTHERS, decided on Thursday, March 10, 2016.
[ In the High Court of Madras, W.A. Nos. 1336 & 1337 of 2002 & W.P. Nos. 9941 of 2009, W.P.No.5569 of 2009 & W.P. No. 14866 of 2015 & W.P.(MD) Nos. 13844, 13015, 13306, 13982, 13982, 13499, 13500, 5900, 12646, 9736, 9744 & 15296 of 2012, W.P.(MD) No. 9486, 6497 & 13321 of 2009, W.P.(MD) No. 12982 of 2011, W.P.(MD) Nos. 2090, 2353 & 11414 of 2013 & W.P.(MD) No. 11261 of 2010. ] 10/03/2016
Judge(s) : CHIEF SANJAY KISHAN KAUL & T.S. SIVAGNANAM
Advocate(s) : T.R. Rajagopal Sr., Counsel R. Krishnamurthy Sr., Counsel V. Ayyakurai, M.V. Venkatasesha, R. Subramanian, T. Lajapathi Rai, T.P. Prabhakaran. R1 & R2, P.H. Arvind Pandian, AAG Assisted by M.K. Subramanian, Spl. G.P., (Forest), R3, R. Krishnamurthy, Sr., Counsel, R8 & R9, Joy Joseph M/s. C. Saravanan & Abraham Marcos, R6, M/s. Selvi George.
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    (Prayer: Writ Appeal filed under Section 15 of the Letters patent against the order dated 05.04.2002 passed by learned single Judge in W.P.No.7275 of 1985.)Common Judgment:T.S. Sivagnanam J.1. The common issue raised in these cases is the validity of the notification issued by the District Collector Kanyakumari declaring the lands owned by the appellants/petitioners as “Private Forests” under the provisions of the Tamil Nadu Preservation of Private Forests Act 1949. (hereinafter referred to as the 'Act').2. In this batch there are Writ Appeals and Writ Petitions. The Writ Appeals are directed against the common order dated 05.04.2002 in W.P.No.7275 7276 of 1985 etc. and fresh Writ Petitions filed by the petitioners which were tagged along with the Writ Appeals as the issue involved were more or less identical.3. The Writ Petitions were dismissed upholding the validity of the Act and the notifications issued under it declaring the lands of the Appellants/Petitioners as “Private Forests”. At the commencement of the arguments the learned Senior counsel appearing for the Appellants submitted that they are not questioning the Constitutional validity of the Act but confine their challenge to the applicability of the provisions of the Act to the lands owned by the clients and the validity of the notifications declaring those lands to be “Private Forests” under the Act.4. We may segregate the batch of cases into two. The first being the appeals filed against the common order dated 05.04.2002 dismissing the Writ Petitions and the second fresh Writ Petitions which were filed subsequently. With the consent of parties W.A.Nos.1336 & 1337 of 2002 are taken as a lead cases.5. The appellants are the Kanyakumari District Planters Association and other plantation owners. W.A.Nos.1336 of 2002 is directed against the dismissal of W.P.No.7275 of 1985 which was filed challenging the notifications dated 16.09.1980 and 31.12.1982; W.A.No.1337 of 2002 has been filed against the order in W.P.No.7276 of 1985 challenging the validity of Sections 1(2)(iii) 2(aa) 3 and 6 of the Act.6. By notification dated 31.07.1980 the District Collector in exercise of his powers under Section 1(2)(iii) of the Act (extended to Kanyakumari District by Act 28 of 1979) declared the appellants' lands to be Private Forests. Similar notification dated 16.02.1982 was issued in respect of other lands declaring them as 'Private Forests'. These notifications were impugned in the Writ Petitions.7. Two other Writ Petitions had been filed being W.P.Nos.14322 & 14323 of 1988 by three individuals challenging the notification dated 04.10.1979 these Writ Petitions were also dismissed by the common impugned order and no appeals have been preferred against the dismissal of those Writ Petitions.8. Initially the Writ Petitions namely W.P.Nos.7275 & 7276 of 1985 were allowed by order dated 12.12.1995 setting aside the notifications dated 31.07.1980 and 16.02.1982 and remanding the matter to the District Collector for fresh disposal in accordance with law. Challenging the said order the respondents/State preferred Writ Appeals in W.A.Nos.930 & 957 of 1996 which were allowed by the Division Bench by order dated 10.08.2001 with direction that the the Writ Petitions be heard afresh pursuant to which those two Writ Petitions along with other Writ Petitions were heard and were dismissed by common order dated 05.04.2002 which is impugned in the Appeals.Contentions of the Appellants before the Writ Court:-9. It was contended that the Act was enacted to prevent indiscriminate destruction of Private Forests and interference with customary and prescriptive rights therein and for certain other purposes and the said enactment will not apply to plantations as a plantations by its very nature is developed by contribution of human efforts skill and money adopting agricultural and cultivation practice. It was contended that the sine qua non for application of the provisions of the Private Forests Act is existence of a forest. It was submitted that Section 2(aa) which defines 'Forest' is an inclusive definition and Forest as such has not been defined and the Act could have no application to a land which is cultivated with rubber and other agricultural cash crops. The rubber extracted by tapping the rubber trees is an agricultural product and it is not a 'Forest' produce. That rubber trees never grows spontaneously in India and it requires regular and systematic cultivation. Referring to the definition of 'Forest' as defined under Section 2(aa) of the Private Forest Act it was submitted that a word 'Forest' as understood in common parlance is a large uncultivated tract of land covered by trees and under wood and there is a great deal of difference between a forest and a plantation as understood by a layman. It is necessary to replant the old rubber trees after the rubber production declines due to age of the tree and regular tapping. It was submitted that before a notification is issued by the District Collector under Section 1(2) (iii) of the Act it is a pre-requisite for the Government to issue a notification under Section 2(aa) if it intends to declare as 'Forest' any land other than a Forest as understood in common parlance for the purposes of the Act. It was submitted that a rubber plantation cannot be regarded as a waste or communal land or land analogous to a waste or communal land to fall within the definition of forest under Section 2(aa) of the Act. Therefore a notification can be validly issued only if the lands satisfy the test mentioned in Section 2(aa) of the Act and therefore the notification dated 31.07.1980 is ultra vires the provisions of the Act. It was further submitted that re-planting operations involving removal of old and uneconomical rubber trees is essential part of the operation being carried out in a rubber plantation recognised by the Rubber Board a statutory body constituted under the Rubber Act 1947. The Board extends re-planting subsidy with a view to encourage the growers to replace old and uneconomic trees by planting high yielding variety of rubber plants. That if the provisions of the Act are made applicable to a rubber plantation replanting operations cannot be done without securing permission by observing the formalities as contemplated under the Act and the Rules framed thereunder and will hinder the agricultural activities. In terms of Section 3 of the Act no portion of the Forest can be sold mortgaged leased or otherwise alienated without the previous sanction of a Committee constituted under the Act and any alienation without such permission is declared being null and void. Thus the restrictions cannot apply to a rubber plantation which requires regular agricultural operations such as removal of dead and will fallen trees thinning of trees and even extracting rubber latex from the trees. Thus the restrictions imposed under the Act are clearly violative of Article 19(1)(g) of the Constitution of India. The power granted to the District Collector is uncanalised and without guidelines. There is no enquiry contemplated before a notification is issued no hearing is given to persons whose rights are adversely affected by such notification and the civil consequences arising therefrom. The impugned notifications issued under Section 1(2)(iii) of the Act are violative of the provisions of the Article 14 of the Constitution of India as it discriminates between plantations as similar plantations situated in other Districts have not been notified as “Forest”. The land owners were not given any opportunity to putforth their case in respect of the proposal to treat their plantations as “Forest” for the purposes of the Act. On the above grounds the provisions of the Act and the notifications were challenged.Contentions of respondents before Writ Court:-10. The respondents resisting the Writ prayer sought to contend that there are number of private estates situated in the midst of reserved forest since patta has been granted to private individual inside the forest by the erstwhile Travancore – Cochin State and there are several cases were private estate owners have encroached upon Forest land and planted rubber trees prior to verification of reserved forest boundaries at the time of merger of the erstwhile Travancore – Cochin area during November 1956. That rubber trees are considered as very valuable source of softwood with varied uses and rubber plantations contain not only rubber trees but also other trees such as rose wood teak aini marudam and thomba and there are several wild life species and maintaining the eco-system in the western ghats largely depends upon the forest cover. In order to preserve indiscriminate cutting of trees by private individuals the preservation of private forest had to be undertaken by the State and it became necessary to enact a separate legislation namely the Tamil Nadu Preservation of Private Forest Act 1949. In terms of the provisions of the Act the authorities grant permission to cut the trees on application and the provisions of the Act does not in any manner offend Article 19(1)(g) or Article 300A of the Constitution. If private rubber plantation estates and private forest areas inclusive of estate listed in the annexure to the notification are excluded from the purview of the Act it may lead to uncontrolled commercial exploitation with large scale biotic interference leading to destruction of the entire bio-diversity and eco-system of the forest and ultimately the object of the National Forest policy gets deported. In terms of Section 1(2)(iii) of the Act it applies to a private forest situate in other areas in the State of Tamil Nadu and having a contiguous area exceeding two hectares which may be declared by the District Collector to be a 'Private Forest'. For the purpose of Private Forests Act notification is required to be issued in the District Gazette by the District Collector and not by the Government as required under the Tamil Nadu Forest Act 1882 for the purposes of declaring a reserved forest. That the contention that it is a pre-condition for the Government to issue a notification under Section 2(aa) of the Act is incorrect as the land declared by the State Government to be a Forest by publishing a notification in the Tamil Nadu Government Gazette is in respect of reserved forest whereas the District Collector is the competent authority under Section 1(2)(iii) of the Private Forest Act by issuing notification duly published in the District Gazette. Thus only for the purpose of declaring lands as 'Forest' to bring them under reserved forest notification by the Government is necessary and in the instant cases the lands declared as 'Forest' by the District Collector is a private forest and the District Collector is competent to issue the impugned notifications. It was submitted that plantations are technically called as “Manmade Forests” coming under broad classification of the “Forest”. The plantation areas referred to by the petitioners not only contain rubber trees but also contain other trees such as Rosewood Teak etc. and cannot be said as mere plantation. In terms of the explanation it is clear that a private forest which is a forest shall not cease to be such by reason of the fact that a portion thereof lands are cultivated. The Government to avoid difficulties to rubber plantation owners have issued G.O.Ms.No.512 Forest and Fisheries Department dated 21.04.1984 relaxing certain provisions of the Act and empowering the District Forest Officer himself to grant permission for felling of mature rubber trees without referring the same to the District Committee and felling orders are invariably issued within three or four weeks on receipt of the application complete in all respects. It is submitted that right of appeal has been provided under Section 4 of the Act which is an effective and efficacious remedy. It was contended that to keep the ecological balance the tree cover should be 33% of the total extent of land in the country or the State and State of Tamil Nadu is lagging behind this requirement and it is essential to preserve the Forest and also increase the forest cover for which effective steps have been taken by the Government. Thus the respondents contended that the impugned notifications issued by the District Collector are valid and the provisions of the Act are not violative of any of the Constitutional provisions nor do they suffer from any other infirmities and the intention of the legislation is to prevent indiscriminate felling of trees in private forests to prevent destruction thereof and uphold the objective of the National Forest Policy.Decision of the Writ Court:-11. The Writ Petitions were dismissed holding that based on the information furnished and the explanation to Section 1(2)(iii) of the Act it is clear that the Private Forest which is a forest shall not cease to be such by reason only of the fact that a portion thereof lands are cultivated and rubber plantation even if they are cultivated partly or wholly is to be considered as Forest for the purpose of declaration under the provisions of the Act and though the word “Forest” as generally understood means a large uncultivated tract of plant covered by trees underwood etc. That the information furnished by the Government that the plantation area referred by the Writ Petitions not only contain rubber trees but also contained other miscellaneous trees like rose wood teak etc. and hence it cannot be said they are merely plantations. Referring to the decision of the Hon'ble Supreme Court in the case of T.N. Godavarman Thirumulpad v. Union of India reported in (1997) 2 SCC 267 it was held that the said decision makes it clear that the term forest land will not only include forest as understood in the dictionary sense but also any area recorded as forest in the Government records irrespective of the ownership. It was observed that in the light of the observations of the Hon'ble Supreme Court in the case of State of Kerala vs. Pullangode Rubber and Produce Co. Ltd. reported in(1999) 6 SCC 99 and the order of reference to a Larger Bench the Court accepted the submissions of the learned Advocate General that the term “forest land” occurring in Section 2 of the Act will not only include forest as understood in the dictionary sense but also any area recorded as forest in the Government record irrespective of the ownership. The submission made by the State with regard to a land declared as forest under the Forest Act and the distinction sought to be made in respect of notification issued by the District Collector under the Private Forest Act was accepted and it was held that for the purpose of declaring lands as Forest to bring them under reserved forest notification by the Government is necessary but in the instant case the lands have been declared as Private Forest and for such declaration the Collector/Committee is the competent authority and Government notification is not required. The contention raised by the petitioners that the notifications violate Article 14 & 19(1)(g) of the Constitution was rejected. With regard to plea of violation of principles of natural justice after referring to Section 2A of the Act which deals with the constitution of a Committee for the purposes of the Act and also G.O.Ms.No.512 issued by the Government relaxing certain provisions of the Act and Rules in favour of plantation owners it was held there is no violation of principles of natural justice. Reference was also made to the existence of similar provisions under the Tamil Nadu Hill Areas (Preservation of Trees) Act 1955 which enactment is applicable to plantations such as tea coffee cardamom under which prior permission is required for felling trees in terms of Section 3(1) of the said Act wherein a District Committee has been constituted as that of the Private Forest Act. Broadly on the above grounds the Writ Petitions were dismissed. Aggrieved by such order the Appellants have preferred these Appeals.12. The challenge to the impugned order is on the following grounds.(i) Section 2(aa) of the Act defines 'Forest' and it is an inclusive definition and for a land to be declared as a 'Forest' a notification by State Government is provided and without such notification a land cannot be declared as a 'Forest' under the provisions of the Act.(ii) The Rubber plantations of the appellants wherein existence from 1930's and they are man-made plantations and cannot be declared as a 'Forest'.(iii) During 1931 the appellants were granted ryotwari patta under the laws of erstwhile Travancore – Cochin and the lands being patta land cannot be classified as a 'Forest'. The lands owned by the appellants are patta lands and there is no material placed by the respondent to show that it is coming in between a forest area. Referring to the notification issued by the Collector it is pointed out that the lands have been declared as 'punja' lands and cannot be classified as 'Forest'.(iv) In the statement of objects and reasons of the Private Forest Act it has been stated that there were no private forest in Kanyakumari District when they act was extended to the Shencotta Taluk. Referring to the decision of the Hon'ble Supreme Court in the case of Bhavani Tea and Produce Company vs. State of Kerala reported in (1991) 2 SCC 463 it is submitted that a plantation cannot be termed as a 'Forest'. Placing reliance on the decision of the Hon'ble Supreme Court in the case of B.S.Sandhu vs. Government of India reported in 2014-5-MLJ 503 (SC) it is submitted that there cannot be a blanket order declaring all lands in the District as “Private Forest”.(v) The Private Forest Act was extended to Kanyakumari District on 15.06.1979 and within a very short period the first notification was issued on 04.10.1979. Therefore it is clear that there has been no proper assessment nor opportunity provided to the appellants to put forth their objections. Reference was made to the decision in the case of Dashmesh Educational Society vs. Punjab Urban Development Authority & Ors. reported in (2015) 8 SCC 311 in which the decision in the case of B.S.Sandhu (supra) was followed.(vi) Rubber plantation is not a 'Forest' and it is exempted under the Kerala Act. The decision in the case of Bhavani Tea and Produce Company(supra) holds the field and a commercial plantation is not a Forest and before characterising a land as a Forest land it should intrinsically be a 'Forest'. In this regard reliance was placed on the decision of the Hon'ble Supreme Court in the case ofGodrej & Boyce Mfg. Co. Ltd. v. State of Maharashtra reported in (2014) 3 SCC 430. The above are the grounds raised by the learned Senior counsels appearing for the appellants and the learned counsel appearing for the Writ Petitioners and the learned counsel appearing for the Rubber Board.13. The case of the respondents is that(1) The definition of Forest under Section 2(aa) of the Private Forest Act is an inclusive definition and encompasses all lands.(2) Section 1(2)(iii) of the Act stood amended by Tamil Nadu Act 68 of 1979 but such amendment was only in the Explanation found under clause 3 of Section 1(2) and not in clause 3 and therefore the District Collector is the competent authority to issue such declaration. The Map of the area prepared by the Survey of India shows that all the estates owned by the appellants are situated in the midst of the Reserved Forest and the Hon'ble Supreme Court in the case of T.N. Godavarman Thirumulpad v. Union of India dated 29.10.2002 has held that the map prepared by the Survey of India is not open to challenge. A Division Bench of this Court in the case of N.Mangalchand Vaid & Ors. vs. The Secretary to Government of Tamil Nadu reported in 2008-1-MLJ-476 considered identical contentions which have been raised in these cases and the notification issued under the Private Forest Act in respect of Nilgiris District was upheld. Majority of the Writ Petitioners are subsequent purchasers i.e. after the notification was issued by the District Collector and in terms of the recent amendment by Tamil Nadu Act 8 of 2015 even the subsequent purchasers have been given a remedy under the Act which could very well be availed by them. In terms of the order of the Hon'ble Supreme Court Forest land will include the forest as understood in the dictionary sense and plantation area covered with trees shrubs undergrowth and pastures whether spontaneous or man-made are forests and cannotbe differed by status.The forested tracts in Kanyakumari District are of ecological significance and they have to be protected as they serve as catchment area for 10 reservoirs namely Pechiparai Perunchani Chithar-1 Chithar-II Upper Kodayar Lower Kodayar Kuthiyar Chinna Kuthiyar Mukkadal and Poigai Anai. The Hon'ble Supreme Court by order dated 12.12.1996 in W.P.(C)No.202 of 1995 in respect of Tamil Nadu has ordered that there will be no further expansion of the plantations in a manner so as to involve encroachment upon by way of clearing or otherwise of forests and therefore any intervention in the notification issued by the Collector will result in expansion of the plantation in the areas otherwise of forests and result in deforestation of the forest area which would defeat the National Forest Policy and the policy of the State to increase the forest and tree cover upto 1/3rd of the geographical jurisdiction of the State.14. The District Committee does not object to cutting of mature rubber trees in private forest areas and the objection is raised only on ground of ownership of the land which often does not conform to the notification issued under the Private Forest Act due to subsequent land transactions without prior approval and notice to the District Committee. Any relaxation in the present status will result in indiscriminate felling of the remaining trees which have grown spontaneously which has escaped the axe by way of extension of Private Forest Act to these tracts of Forest. The implementation of the Act is only regulatory and not prohibitive. On the above submissions the respondents seek to sustain the impugned order.15. We have elaborately heard the learned Senior counsels and the learned counsel appearing for the petitioners and the learned Additional Advocate General assisted by the learned Special Government Pleader for Forest cases and the learned counsel for the Rubber Board.16. Though the Writ Petitions were filed challenging the validity of the provisions of the Private Forest Act and the notification issued by the District Collector declaring the lands of the Appellant/Petitioner as private forest at the commencement of the arguments the learned counsels conceded that challenge is not to the viries of the statue but to its applicability. Thus as there is no challenge to the viries of the Act upon perusal of the order passed in the Writ Petitions and being satisfied with the findings recorded therein we hold that the provisions of the Private Forest Act are intraviries the constitutional provision and they are upheld.17. Before we proceed to consider the rival contentions it is essential to take note of the relevant provisions of the Private Forest Act. The Act was enacted to prevent the indiscriminate destruction of private forest and interference with customary and prescriptive rights therein and for certain other purposes. The Act was extended to Kanyakumari District by Tamil Nadu Act 28 of 1979. Section 1(2) deals with the application of the provisions of the Act and clause (iii) in Section 1(2) reads as follows:-(2) It applies(i) [........](ii)[........](iii) to forests situated in estates as defined in the Tamil Nadu Preservation of Private Forests (Second Amendment) Act and having contiguous area exceeding [2 hectares] which may be declared by the District Collector by Tamil Nadu Act LXVIII of 1979 (Committee) forests for the purposes of this Act by notification in the District Gazettee.Explanation:-A Private forest exceeding 12 hectares by Tamil Nadu Act LXVIII of 1979 [2 hectares] in extent shall not cease to be such by reason only of the fact that in a portion thereof amended by Tamil Nadu Act XII of 1965 [trees shrubs or reeds are felled or cut] with or without the permission of the District Collector (Committee) or lands are cultivated or rocks roads tanks rivers or the like exist; nor shall the area of such forest cease to be contiguous by reason only of the existence of all or any of the aforesaid circumstances.18. Section 2(aa) defines 'Forest' in the following terms:-2(aa) 'forest' includes waste or communal land containing trees shrubs and reeds pasture land and any other class of land declared by the (substituted for “provincial” by Adaption of Laws Order 1950) State Government to be a forest by notification (in the Fort St. George Gazette omitted by Tamil Nadu Act XXXVI of 1979).Explanation:- For the purposes of this clause 'communal land' means any land of the description mentioned in sub-clause (a) or sub-clause (b) of clause (16) of Section 3 of the Tamil Nadu Estates Land Act 1908;19. Section 2A deals with constitution of committees and in terms of said provision the State Government may by notification constitute for each district a committee for the purpose of the Act with the District Collector as the Chairman and the District Forest Officer having jurisdiction over the District Tahsildar having jurisdiction over the area Executive Engineer of the Agricultural Department incharge of soil conservation as members.20. Section 3 deals with 'Preservation of Private Forests' and in terms of the sub-section (1)(a) of Section 3 no owner of any forest shall without the previous sanction of the Committee sell mortgage lease or otherwise alienate wholly or any portion of the forest. The explanation under Section 3(1)(a) states that nothing in sub-section (1)(a) shall be considered as preventing the owner from selling or otherwise dealing with the right to gather and remove forest produce other than trees timber and reeds in the usual or customary manner for a period not exceeding two years. Any alienation in contravention of clause (a) shall be null and void under clause (b) of Section 13(1). Section 3(2) prohibits owner of any forest or any person claiming under him without permission of the committee cut trees or reeds or do any act likely to denude the forest or diminish its utility. The proviso under Section 3(2) permits removal of dead or fallen trees or to any act done for the usual or customary domestic purposes or for making agricultural implements. Section 3(3) which commences with a non-obstante clause confers power on the State Government to exempt any forest or class of forests or class of trees therein from all or any of the provisions of the section 3.21. Section 4 provides for an appellate remedy to a person aggrieved by an order passed under Section 3(1)(a) and Section 3(2) to prefer an appeal to the State Government. Section 6 confers power on the Government to prohibit or regulate the doing of any act which is likely to be detrimental to the preservation of such forest or forests and regulate the exercise of customary or prescriptive rights in such forest or forests. By virtue of Section 6A chapter VII of the Tamil Nadu Forest Act 1882 has been made applicable subject to certain modifications in which penalties and procedures have been stipulated. Section 10 is the rule making power of the State Government for carrying out the purposes of the Act.22. As mentioned above the provisions of the Act were extended to Kanyakumari District by Act 28 of 1978 with effect from 15.06.1979 and the first notification was issued by the District Collector on 14.10.1979. This notification was not subject matter of challenge. The second notification was issued on 31.07.1980 and the third on 16.02.1982 and these notifications were put to challenge. Both the impugned notifications were issued by the District Collector declaring certain lands to be Forest under the Private Forest Act in terms of Section 1(2)(iii) of the Act. The notification mentions the name of the village the re-survey number extent of the property classification name of the owner and remarks. The lands have been shown as Private Forest (Rubber Estate). In terms of the notification the lands have been classified as patta land and there is no dispute to the said fact.23. The sheet anchor of the arguments advanced by the learned counsel for the petitioner is that the lands being patta lands cannot be declared as forest that too when they are rubber plantation which are man-made and not spontaneous.24. As noticed above the Private Forest Act was enacted to prevent the indiscriminate the destruction of Private Forest and Forest as defined under Section 2(aa) includes waste or communal land containing trees shrubs and reeds pasture land and any other class of land declared by the State Government to be a Forest by notification.25. The case of the appellants was that in terms of Section 1(2)(iii) of the Act applies to the Private Forest having a contiguous area of exceeding 2 hectares which may be declared by the committee for the purpose of the Act by notification in the District Gazette. An argument was advanced that the District Collector is not empowered to notify the lands as Private Forest as per Section 1(2)(iii) in terms of amended Act 68 of 1979. This contention is found to be incorrect on a perusal of the copy of the notification dated 21.12.1979 by which Act 68 of 1979 was notified from which we find the amendment substitutes the word 'District Collector' with the word 'Committee' only in the explanation of clause (iii) Section 1(2) and not in clause (iii). Therefore it is held that the District Collector is the competent person to issue a declaration for declaring a land as a Private Forest.26. It was argued that Rubber Plantations are on account of systematic cultivation wherein agricultural operations are carried on in a scientific manner and therefore they cannot be called as Forest.27. To consider the argument it would first necessary take note of the decision of the Hon'ble Supreme court in the case of T.N. Godavarman Thirumulpad v. Union of India (supra). In the said decision it was pointed out that the Forest Conservation Act 1980 was enacted to check further deforestation which ultimately results in ecological imbalance; and therefore the provisions made therein for the conservation of forests and for matters connected therewith must apply to all forests irrespective of the nature of ownership or classification thereof. It was pointed out that the word “Forest” must be understood according to its dictionary meaning and this description covers all statutorily recognised forests whether designated as reserved protected or otherwise for the purpose of Section 2(i) of the Forest Conservation Act. It was further held that the term forest land occurring in Section 2 will not only include forest as understood in the dictionary sense but also any area recorded as forest in the Government record irrespective of the ownership and this is how it has to be understood for the purpose of Section 2 of the Forest Conservation Act. This settled legal position was restated in the said decision to dispel any doubt in the perception of any State Government or Authority.28. The State Government issued a notification dated 01.10.1981 under the Private Forest Act published in the Nilgiris District Gazette declaring certain lands to be Forest for the purpose of the Act. This notification was challenged by the landowners in the case of N.Mangalchand Vaid & Ors. (supra) contending that the lands are ryotwari patta lands and it is a coffee plantation and it is essential to provide shade trees in the plantation which get silviculturally matured and to be removed from time to time as otherwise they would not only cease to serve the purpose for which they are planted but would also cause danger and havoc to the coffee plantations. Therefore it was contended that the declaration of their lands as 'forest' is absolutely illegal that too without notice or opportunity to the landowners. A Division Bench of this Court considered the object of the Private Forest Act the relevant provisions in comparison with the provisions of the Tamil Nadu Hill Areas (Preservation of Trees) Act 1955 and held that from a comparative reading of the applicability clauses in both the Acts it is clear that while the Private Forests Act would apply to private forests having a contiguous area exceeding two hectares which may be declared by the Committee to be forests besides the forests situated in estates as defined in the Tamil Nadu Estate Land Act 1938 and the Tamil Nadu Hill Areas (Preservation of Trees) Act upheld the validity of the notification.29. The argument that ryotwari patta lands could not have been declared as Forest that too without notice and without opportunity to the landowners stood rejected in the light of the decision of the Hon'ble Supreme Court. It was pointed out that under the provision of the Private Forest Act the notification is required to be issued only in the District Gazette and not in the Tamil Nadu Government Gazette. In effect the decision of the Division Bench would be a straight answer to the contentions advanced by the appellants and consequently we would have to hold that the impugned notifications are valid. However since other submissions were also made we proceed to independently consider the same.30. On going through the provisions of the Private Forest Act it is clear that the provisions of the Act are regulatory in nature and there is no prohibition to hold the law as a patta land. The ryotwari patta holders/owners of the land are not divested of the right over their property but the right over the property and the manner in which the property is to be put to use is sought to be regulated. There is no prohibition for planting rubber trees nor there is any bar for carrying on seasonal agricultural operations. The prohibition imposed in terms of Section 3 is with regard to mortgage sale lease etc and this prohibition is not an absolute prohibition but such acts are permissible with permission of the Committee constituted under the Act. Thus there is a great deal of difference between the Private Forest Act and the Kerala Vesting Act the effect of which was considered in Bhavani Tea and Produce Company (supra). Therefore such regulatory statute considered in the light of the decision of the Hon'ble Supreme Court in T.N. Godavarman Thirumulpad v. Union of India (supra) cannot be held to be a invalid piece of legislation.31. The learned Senior counsel appearing for the appellants and the learned Senior counsel appearing for the Rubber Board argued that it could be seen from the statement of objects and reasons of the Tamil Nadu Preservation of Private Forest (Extension to Kanyakumari District) Act 1979 that at the time of extending the Private Forest Act to Shengottai Taluk it was stated that there was no private forest in Kanyakumari District and the extension of the Act was brought in to prevent indiscriminate destruction of Private Forest. Therefore it is argued that if there was no private forest in Kanyakumari District it is not known how suddenly Private Forest came into being and in any case no planter would after investing huge amount for raising rubber plantation would resort to indiscriminate destruction thereof. To Test the correctness of the said submission it would be necessary to take note of the statement of objects and reasons mentioned under the 1979 Act when the Private Forest Act was extended to Kanyakumari District and the same reads as follows:-Statement of Objects and ReasonsThe Tamil Nadu Preservation of Private Forests Act 1949 (Tamil nadu Act XXVII of 1949) is now in force in the whole of the State of Tamilnadu except the Kanyakumari district which territory including Shencottah Taluk of Tirunelveli District was transferred to the State of Tamilnadu from the Kerala State in 1956. At the time of extending the said Act to the Shencottah Taluk of Tirunelveli District it was considered that there were no private forests in Kanyakumari District to which the provisions of the said Tamilnadu Act XXVII of 1949 could be applied. Indiscriminate destruction of private forests in Kanyakumari District has been brought to the notice of the Government. In order to prevent such indiscriminate destruction of such private forests and to prohibit persons from cutting trees or reeds or doing any act likely to denude the forest or diminish its utility as a forest without the previous permission of the District Collector and also to punish such persons who commit such prohibited acts it is considered necessary that the said Tamil Nadu Act XXVII of 1949 should be extended also to Kanyakumari District.32. On a perusal of the above objects and reasons it is seen that at the time of extending the provisions of the Private Forest Act to the Shengottai Taluk of Tirunelveli District it was considered that there were no private forest in Kanyakumari District to which the provisions of the Private Forest Act 1949 could be applied. It is stated that it has been brought to the notice of the Government about indiscriminate destruction of Private Forest in Kanyakumari District and in order to prevent such indiscriminate destruction and to prohibit persons from cutting trees or doing any act likely to denude the Forest or diminish its utility as a 'Forest' without the previous permission of the District Collector and also to punish such persons who commits such prohibited act the Act should be extended also to Kanyakumari District. Therefore there is no declaration made in the statement of objects and reasons that there were no Private Forest in Kanyakumari District but it was considered at the time of extending the provision of the Act to Shengottai Taluk there was no private forest in Kanyakumari District but this view of the Government appeared to be wrong which the Government realised after they received information about indiscriminate destruction of Private Forest in Kanyakumari District. Therefore the contention of the appellants and the Rubber Board that there is a conclusive finding that there is no private forest in Kanyakumari District is a misconceived plea.33. The learned Senior counsel appearing for the appellants as well as the learned Senior counsel appearing for the Rubber Board contended that the Writ Court after analysing the decision of the Hon'ble Supreme Court in the case of Bhavani Tea and Produce Company(supra) pointed out that in the case of State of Kerala vs. Pullangode Rubber and Produce Company reported in (1999) 6 SCC 1999 their Lordship's expressed that the decision in Bhavani Tea and Produce Company with regard to the object of 1949 Act was not considered and requires reconsideration by a Larger Bench and the papers were directed to be placed before the Hon'ble Chief Justice of India for constituting a Larger Bench to hear those matters. It is pointed out that much prior to the date of the dismissal of the Writ Petitions the Larger Bench of the Hon'ble Supreme Court by judgment dated 27.07.1999 refused to reconsider the Bhavani Tea and Produce Company(supra) and the said decision continuous to hold the field and was binding on the Writ Court. Therefore the decision rendered in the Writ Petition was based on the presumption that the correctness of Bhavani Tea and Produce Company(supra) was referred to a Larger Bench and the matter was pending. As the Hon'ble Supreme Court in the judgment State of Kerala vs. Pullangode Rubber and Produce Co. Ltd. reported in AIR 1999 SC 2522 dated 27.07.1999 held that it is not necessary to consider the correctness of the decision in the case of Bhavani Tea and Produce Company(supra) in its entirety it is submitted that applying the decision in Bhavani Tea and Produce Company(supra) to the cases on hand the impugned notifications are to be held to be bad in law.34. It is true that on the date when the Writ Petitions were dismissed i.e. on 05.04.2002 the reference to the Larger Bench of the Hon'ble Supreme Court was no longer pending as the Larger Bench disposed of the matter much earlier on 27.07.1999 holding that it is not necessary to consider the correctness of the decision in Bhavani Tea and Produce Company(supra) in its entirety. However it has to be seen as to whether owing to the said fact the appellants contentions are justified whether the decision in the case of Bhavani Tea and Produce Company(supra) could be applied to the cases on hand and the effect of the decision in the case of Bhavani Tea and Produce Company(supra) on the facts and circumstances of the present cases. Bhavani Tea and Produce Company was a public limited company engaged in plantation of tea coffee cardamom rubber and other plantations and having purchased the same during 1946. The case arose under the Kerala Private Forest (Vesting and Assignment) Act 1971. This Act provided for vesting in Government Private Forest in State of Kerala for assignment to agriculturist or agricultural labourers for cultivation and the Act was extended to the entire Kerala State.35. Pre-amble to the Vesting Act indicates that the private forest in State of Kerala are agricultural lands and the Government considered that such agricultural lands should be so utilised as to increase the agricultural production in the State and to promote the welfare of the agricultural population of the State. The statement of objects and reasons stated that the private forest as defined in Kerala Land Reforms Act 1963 were exempted from ceiling thereunder and that with high density of population there was scarcity of lands and it was against the Directive Principles of State Policy to allow a few persons to be in ownership and control of these agricultural lands. Thus the object of the Kerala Vesting Act was to distribute the private forest lands among the agriculturist and agricultural labourers for agriculture. Therefore the Kerala Vesting Act was an ex-proprietary statute. The appellant Bhavani Tea approached the Tribunal constituted under Section 8 of the said Act for declaration that no portion of the lands comprised in particular survey numbers in a village was liable to vest in the State under the Kerala Vesting Act. The respondent -State of Kerala stated before the Tribunal that the plantation area in the schedule property had already been exempted and only such areas as fell within the definition of private Forest in the Vesting Act mainly areas full of forest trees aged 20 to 100 years were being surveyed and demarcated as vested forest. The State of Kerala also disputed the area under plantation and the area claimed to have been reserved for fuel and firewood etc. On the basis of the evidence available the Tribunal held certain plots of land had been brought under cultivation prior to 14.12.1949 and therefore did not fall within the purview of the Madras Preservation of Private Forest Act and were held to be outside the purview of the Kerala Vesting Act. Similarly other plots of lands which were used principally for cultivation of tea coffee cardamom were excluded from the purview of the Vesting Act in view of the provision containing in Section 2(f) thereof. The remaining plots were found to be not excludable. Thus the Tribunal allowed the company to retain a particular extent of the land and declared the remaining as vested forest under the Vesting Act. The order of the Tribunal was put to challenge both by the company and the State of Kerala before the High Court and the High Court partly allowed both the appeals. On a perusal of the judgment more particularly in paragraphs 10 & 11 it is seen that the High Court had examined the case with reference to each plot and the extent which would be covered or not covered by the provisions of the Vesting Act. Challenging the order passed by the High Court the company Bhavani Tea and the State of Kerala filed Special Leave Petitions before the Hon'ble Supreme Court. While examining the statement of objects and reasons of the Kerala Vesting Act and the definition of Private Forest as defined thereunder the Hon'ble Supreme Court pointed out that this aspect was examined in the case of State of Kerala vs. Gwalior Rayon Silk Manufacturing (weaving) company Ltd reported in (1973) 2 SCC 713 wherein it was observed that the Vesting Act purported to acquire Forest land without payment of compensation for implementing a scheme of agrarian reform by assigning lands or by way of lease to the poorer section of the agricultural population. It was observed that extensive areas of Private Forests were available in Malabar District which could be acquired and distributed and that the Private Forest lands of Malabar District were contiguous and formed one long belt of Mountainous terrain now forming part of State of Kerala. It was observed that plantations of tea coffee rubber etc. were grown on extensive scale in these forests and industries had taken leases of vast areas of these forest for those purposes. Thus as pointed out by the Hon'ble Supreme Court the Kerala Vesting Act was in effect an Act purported to acquire forest land without payment of compensation.36. In paragraph 18 of the judgment in Bhavani Tea reference has been made to the Madras Preservation of Private Forest Act 1949 and the definition of Forest as defined under Section 2(a) has been noted. The other enactments such as the Kerala Forest Act 1961 the Kerala Land Reforms Act 1963 were referred to and the Hon'ble Supreme Court proceeded to take note of the definition of Private Forest as defined under Section 2(f) of the Kerala Vesting Act. In paragraph 33 of the Judgment the Hon'ble Supreme Court pointed out that if the land was shown to be a Private Forest on the date on which the Madras Preservation of Private Forest Act came into force (1949) it would continue to be a Forest even if there was subsequent replantation. In para 34 it was pointed out that the reverse question was involved in the case namely if the land was not private forest but plantation under the 1949 Act and was similarly not private forest but plantation on 10.05.1971 it could not without anything more become forest thereafter even though it was not under the same efficient or successful plantation as it was earlier. Considering the argument on behalf of the company that plantations did not constitute private forest either under the Madras Preservation of Private Forest Act or under the Kerala Land Reforms Act and the companies plantations could not have come within the purview of the Vesting Act it was observed that it cannot be said that there could never be a case of such plantation land being converted to a forest by natural growth or otherwise and it must necessarily depend on facts.37. After making the above observations the Hon'ble Supreme Court proceeded to consider the merits of the case and dealt with the factual aspects as to whether each plot of lands would vest under the Kerala Vesting Act or not. In the case of Pullangode Rubber and Produce Co. Ltd. dated 13.04.1999 question was whether some areas which are within the rubber plantation of the company (respondent therein) would fall within the provisions of the Kerala Vesting Act. Contention was raised that a cultivated plantation is excluded from the provisions of the 1949 Act and reliance was placed on the decision in the case of Bhavani Tea and Produce Company(supra). The Hon'ble Supreme Court pointed out that in Bhavani Tea and Produce Company(supra) case the Court did not consider the object for which the 1949 Act was enacted namely with a view to prevent the destruction of Private Forest and if cultivated forests were excluded from the operation of 1949 Act the whole object of enacting of the said Act would be defeated. Therefore in the opinion of their Lordship the decision in Bhavani Tea and Produce Company(supra) required reconsideration by the Larger Bench. When the case was decided by the Larger Bench on 27.07.1999 (AIR 1999 SC 2522) the parties contested the case on merits and extensively the Hon'ble Supreme Court went into facts of the case as to whether particular chunks of land were exempted or would not fall within the scope of the Kerala Vesting Act. In paragraph 17 of the judgment it was observed that the appeals were ordered to be heard by a three Judge Bench because it was contended based upon the decision in the case of Bhavani Tea and Produce Company(supra) that a cultivated plantation was excluded from the operation of the Madras Preservation of Private Forest Act 1949 and that no such argument has been advanced even after the referral order was pointed out. Therefore it was held that it was not necessary to consider the correctness of the decision in Bhavani Tea and Produce Company(supra) in its entirety.38. Thus on account of the parties before the Hon'ble Supreme Court having not advanced submissions on the issue as to whether a cultivated plantation was excluded from the purview of 1949 Act based on the judgment in Bhavani Tea and Produce Company(supra) the Larger Bench did not examine the correctness of the said decision. Thus it cannot be argued by the appellants that the three Judge Bench of the Hon'ble Supreme Court has approved the decision in the case of Bhavani Tea and Produce Company(supra). In the preceding paragraphs we have extensively referred to the factual matrix in Bhavani Tea and Produce Company(supra). The decision essentially arose out of a factual finding recorded by the Tribunal under the Kerala Vesting Act which was put to challenge before the High Court which allowed the appeals in part against which the State as well as the company preferred appeals before the Hon'ble Supreme Court. Thus in effect the Hon'ble Supreme Court was testing the correctness of the decision of the High Court arising out of first appeals against the orders passed by the Tribunal. Before the Tribunal evidence was placed by both parties. The High Court exercising first appellate jurisdiction over the decision of the Tribunal re-appreciated the evidence and rendered judgment the correctness of which was tested before the Hon'ble Supreme Court.39. Therefore in our view the reference or observations contained in Bhavani Tea and Produce Company(supra) could be helpful to examine a case arising under the Kerala Vesting Act as the provisions of the Madras Preservation of Private Forest Act 1949 was not put to challenge nor the effect of the definition of Private Forest under the 1949 Act was examined but it was a converse case which was considered by the Hon'ble Supreme Court. Therefore we are of the respectful opinion that the decision rendered in Bhavani Tea and Produce Company(supra) would not be of much assistance to the case of the appellants/petitioners.40. As pointed out earlier the appellants conceded that they are not questioning validity of the 1979 Act by which the Principal Act was extended to Kanyakumari District. Therefore the Act having been upheld by the Court and the Court having held that the District Collector is the competent authority the Court cannot shut its eyes to the factual details placed by the respondents as regards the effect on the environment if the Act was not extended to Kanyakumari District. The respondent contended that the forested tracts serve as catchment area from 10 reservoirs namely Pechiparai Perunchani Chithar-1 Chitthar-II Upper Kodayar Lower Kodayar Kuthiyar Chinna Kuthiyar Mukkadal and Poigai Anai. These reservoirs irrigate an area of about 50 000 hects. and feed about 2500 ponds and more than 500kms. lengths of channels. The well being of these water systems is closely related to the prosperity of the farmers of the District as the economy of the District depends on agriculture. The rainwater due to precipitation is collected by hundreds of the hill streams having its origin and presence in these reserved forests as well as private forests. That these streams drain into Kodayar Paraliyar Pazhayar and Valliyar. That if these vegetated slopes are well protected well and kept ecologically intact the hydrological balance and water resources can be maintained properly.41. The learned counsel appearing for the appellants placed reliance on the decision in the case of B.S.Sandhu (supra) to support their contentions. The case arose out of a Public Interest Litigation entertained by the High Court Suo-moto pursuant to a news item published in an English daily wherein it was reported that a Golf club has been developed in blatant violation of Environmental and Forest laws as well as the orders passed by the High Court and that the entire area was closed under Punjab Land Preservation Act 1900 and was a forest area which attracted the provisions of the Forest (Conservation) Act 1980. While examining the effect of Sections 3 and 4 of the Punjab Act the Hon'ble Supreme Court pointed out that the basis for inclusion of the entire area in village Karoran in the list of Forest areas in the State of Punjab pursuant to the order dated 12.12.1996 of the Hon'ble Supreme Court in the case of T.N. Godavarman Thirumulpad(supra) is legally not correct and it was pointed out that the High Court failed to appreciate the meaning of “Forest” and “Forest Land” in Section 2 of the Forest (Conservation) Act 1980. On facts the Hon'ble Supreme Court found that the High Court should have decided the factual question based on the Government Orders and other materials filed before it but instead decided the question by reference to the Punjab Act and by recording a blanket finding the rights of several villagers agriculturists farmers shop owners and inhabitants of the village who are carrying on respective occupations on their lands even before the enactment of the Act has been affected and therefore set aside the findings of the High Court and remanded the matter to the High Court for fresh hearing and fresh order in accordance with law. The said decision is clearly distinguishable on facts and would not render any assistance to the case of the petitioners.42. It was argued that the notifications issued by the District Collector had been done in a mechanical manner without any enquiry into the ground realities and taking over of the rights of the farmers that too in such a massive scale is illegal as cautioned by the Hon'ble Supreme Court in B.S.Sandhu case. In the preceding paragraphs we have pointed out as to how the decision in the case of B.S.Sandhu (supra) is factually distinguishable.43. So far as 1949 Act is concerned it is admittedly not a prohibitive statute but a statute intended to regulate and preserve Private Forest. The proprietary rights of the landowners over the property has not been divested. For the purposes of carrying out the provisions of the Act in terms of Section 2A a Committee has been constituted at District Level. Explanation under Section 3(1) would be relevant which states that nothing in the said sub-section shall be construed as preventing owner from selling or otherwise dealing with a right to gather and remove forest produce other than the tree timber and reeds in the usual customary manner for the period not exceeding two years. Similarly sub-section (2) also provides for permission to be obtained from the committee to carry out certain activities.44. Thus in the absence of any absolute prohibition and when certain transactions are allowed to be sanctioned by the committee restriction can be viewed as reasonable where the provisions for the grant of permission is sought to be enforced bearing in mind the public interest involved i.e. to say preventing the indiscriminate destruction of private forest.45. In the background of what we have observed the Writ Court was fully justified in observing that the committee will decide which land is to be declared as 'forest for the purpose of the Act and if any tree is to be cut or remove application has to be made before the authority and permission would be granted if application is in order. The Act also provides for an appellate remedy and the Government taking into consideration the representation of the rubber plantation owners has issued G.O.Ms.No.512 dated 21.04.1984 by which permission can be granted by the District Forest Officer himself for felling matured rubber trees without reference to the District Committee and those applications are said to be disposed of within a short time and none of the plantation owners have experienced any difficulties in this regard. Therefore the Writ Court was right in holding that the contention that there has been violation of principles of natural justice is unacceptable.46. Furthermore by virtue of the recent amendment by Act 8 of 2015 even the subsequent purchasers are entitled to get their transactions validated by submitting application to the Committee in terms of the newly inserted Section 4A and the Government is stated to have advised the District Committee to process such application within 60 days.47. It is submitted that inspite of the provisions of the Act having been extended to Kanyakumari District from 1979 as on date more than 37 cases have been registered against the owners of the lands for unauthorisedly felling trees in contravention of the provisions of the Act. From the statistics furnished by the learned Special Government Pleader it is alarming to note that large number of trees have been felled and more than seven cases which have been registered are for felling rose-wood trees. Therefore we have little doubt in our mind that any dilution of provision of Act would lead to disastrous consequences. The list of Forest offences registered against the owner of the property shown that apart from rubber there are other trees such as Rosewood Ayini Silverwood Vengai Malaivembu Mulvengai etc. Furthermore the Hon'ble Supreme Court by order dated 12.12.1996 in Writ Petition (C) No.202 of 1995 ordered that there will be a no further expansion of the plantation in any manner as to involve encroachment upon by way of clearing or otherwise of Forest. Therefore any intervention with the impugned notifications would result in expansion of plantation areas which are otherwise Forest and lead to deforestation which would not only be violative of order passed by the Hon'ble Supreme Court but would defeat the National Forest Policy and the policy of the State to increase the Forest and tree cover upto 1/3rd area of the Geographical jurisdiction of the State especially when it is stated that Tamil Nadu is yet to achieve the optimum 1/3rd Forest cover.48. From the counter affidavit filed by the Principal Chief Conservator of Forest we note that a High Level Committee had been constituted by the State Government which has submitted its recommendations. These recommendations have been examined by the Government and the Government by their letter dated 19.01.2015 have accepted the recommendation of the High Level Committee to authorise the District Forest Officer Kanyakumari to grant permission for felling not more than 200 planted rubber trees per annum/per person without referring to the District Committee. The Government has accepted the recommendation that in the case of legal patta landowner may be permitted to mortgage/lease his or her patta land without referring to the District Committee subject to the condition that the patta land owner should not change the characteristics of the area and should not cause felling of the trees in such patta lands. The Government has accepted the recommendation of the High Level Committee and have issued orders to file necessary Interlocutory Application before the Hon'ble Supreme Court for getting rubber spices to be exempted from the purview of the 1949 Act.49. Further the Government in their letter dated 19.01.2015 issued orders to all the District Collectors Conservator of Forests and all District Forest Officers that District Forest Committee meeting shall be conducted to dispose of applications within 60 days from the date of receipt of copy of the applications and send half yearly action taken report to the Government. Further direction has been issued to the Principal Chief Conservator of Forest to collect the details and send progress report of the Government on 31st December and 30th June every year.50. We may take note of the factual submission made in the counter affidavit that the Forest Department has raised rubber plantation in the Reserved Forest in Kanyakumari District over more than 5000 hects. and such plantations are in existence from 1960 and there are several private rubber estates situated in the midst of Reserved Forest since patta has been granted to private individuals inside the Forest by the erstwhile Travancore – Cochin State. There appears to be several cases in Kanyakumari Districts where private estate owners have encroached upon vast extent of forest land and planted rubber trees prior to the verification of Reserved Forest boundaries at the time of merger of the erstwhile Travancore – Cochin area with Tamil Nadu during November 1956.51. In our view so far as the extension of the 1949 Act to the Kanyakumari District has a peculiar effect which cannot be compared to the extension of the 1949 Act to other areas nor any parallel could be drawn to other statutes which have been enacted by the various States which are roughly in pari materia with the 1949 Act. We say so because Kanyakumari District was originally part of the Travancore – Cochin State. On re-organisation of the States in 1956 Kanyakumari District and certain other areas were annexed to the present Tamil Nadu State. The estate owners whose lands now fall within the ambit of private Forest had been granted patta by the erstwhile Travancore – Cochin State. This appears to have resulted in a unique problem for this area namely Kanyakumari District and it is all the more essential that the provisions of the Act should be strictly enforced in Kanyakumari District to preserve the environment and maintain the ecological balance.52. For all the above reasons we find no grounds to interfere with the order passed in the Writ Petitions and accordingly the Writ Appeals fail and they are dismissed. Consequently Writ Petitions are also dismissed leaving it open to the parties to work out their rights under the provisions of the Act. No costs. Consequently connected Miscellaneous Petitions are closed.