The state has lifted curbs on sale and purchase of private forest land with the Devendra Fadnavis government withdrawing restrictions on change in ownership of such plots. A private forest owner can now freely sell his land. But with several thousand hectares of private forests expected to benefit from the move, the government has imposed certain riders.
It has stated that any change of use for such land would not be recognised until it is validated by the Union Forest Ministry. It has clarified further that, relaxation regarding change in ownership would be applicable only for those plots that have been legally restored to a private
Based on the provisions of the Maharashtra Private Acquisition Act, 1975, the Collector has the power to partially or fully restore forest land acquired from private owners whose land holding, following the acquisition, have decreased below 12 hectares.
Such restoration can take place with the ministry’s consent. “The relaxation shall be applicable only for such land,” an official said.
The new directives issued by the Chief Conservator of Forests (Mantralaya), Virendra Tiwari, on December 8, make it clear that it would not be applicable for land on which such an exercise has not been carried out and the ones on which private owners have taken illegal possession of acquired land.
It would not be applicable in case of land tagged as reserved forests, states the government resolution.
In an attempt to ensure that forest land is not illegally diverted for other uses, the government has also issued instructions to forest officials asking them to record the land’s “forest” use in the “other rights” column in the property records at the time of mutation for any ownership change.
Officials said the Union ministry had set the ball rolling in this regard. On June 20, 2017, it issued a circular stating: “The forest conservation act did not prohibit any change of ownership of the forest land by way of sale and transfer, so long as there was no change in use of the land.”
Following the circular, Maharashtra had sought legal opinion regarding permitting the relaxation.
Officials said the law department had also ruled in the affirmative.