[Ongoing] Case against revoking 5-2001 Circular which protects Other State Forests – CA Writ 436/2020
December 20, 2023
By: Vibuda Wijebandara
CEJ filed this Writ application on 28th November 2020 in the Court of Appeal against revoking the Circulars No. 05/2001 dated 10.08.2001 and Circular No. 02/2006 dated 2006.05.17. These Circulars were revoked by way of Circular MWFC/1/2020 dated 04.11.2020 titled “රජයේ අවශේෂ කැලෑ කළමනාකරණය“ by Secretary to the Ministry of Wildlife and ForestConservation with immediate effect andwithout any authority under Forest ConservationOrdinance or any other written law to issue such circular. The Secretary – Ministry of Wildlife and Forest Conservation, Minister of Wildlife and Forest Conservation, Conservator General of Forests, Secretary – Ministry of Environment and the Hon. Attorney General are the respondents of this case.
“Other State Forests” (residual forests) were under the purview of District or Divisional Secretariats and Government agents before Circular No. 05/2001 issued. This Circular was specially issued to prevent misusing these areas or giving them to various entities and individuals at their whims and fancies thereby causing irremediable destruction to fauna and flora. Other State Forests are now protected under the section 20 of the Fauna and Flora Protection Ordinance No 02 of 1937.
Therefore, the decisions contained in Circular MWFC/1/2020 dated 04.11.2020, issued under the hand of the Secretary to the Ministry of Wildlife and Forest Conservation is wrong, illegal and contrary to the provisions of the Forest Ordinance as amended. It is also contrary to the section 23BB of the National Environmental Act No.47 of 1980 and Gazette Notification No. 772/22 dated 18.06.1993 which requires and Environmental Impact Assessment for releasing more than one (1) hectare for a non-forest purpose.
Therefore, Petitioners seek Writ of Mandamus and Certiorari to quash the purported the decisions contained in Circular MWFC/1/2020 and to take steps to provide “other state forests” with the protection provided for in section 20 and section 78 of the Forest Conservation Ordinance and to demarcate boundaries and to Gazette those accordingly, to prepare comprehensive National Policy to identify the areas enunciated under Clause 4.1 of Circular MWFC/1/2020 dated 04.11.2020 and other important and sensitive forest areas within other state forests and to reverse any decisions taken by District and Divisional Secretaries or by any other government officials acting under this Circular. This case was mentioned on 17th December 2020 and 13th January 2021. It was fixed for support on 02nd February 2021 and supported on 22nd March 2021. Two other similar cases (CA WRT 462/20 and CA WRT 46/21) are taken with this case and they are yet to be supported. [END]