Under the Forest Conservation Ordinance No 16 of 1907 as amended, there are three types of forests in Sri Lanka: Conservation Forests, Reserved Forests or Forest Reserves and Village Forests. All these types are afforded legal protection under the said legislation. The areas which are not declared under any other enactment are called “Other State Forests” and were brought under the purview of the Forest Conservation Department subsequent to Circular No. 05/2001.
Following the Cabinet decision dated 01/07/2020, the Ministry of Wildlife and Forest Conservation issued Circular No. MWFC/1/2020 to revoke Circular No. 05/2001 (amended by Circular No. 02/2006) that vested the management, development and protection of all the Other State Forests with the Department of Forests.
According to the mechanism provided in the Circular No. 05/2001, Other State Forests can be released for development purposes only upon such a proposal being examined by the Inter-Ministerial Committee and after carrying out an Environment Assessment in terms of the National Environmental Act.
EFL filed a Fundamental Rights application on 18.12.2020 challenging the above-mentioned circular on the grounds that it violated fundamental rights guaranteed under the Constitution and amounts to a violation of the fundamental duties of the State.
The case was supported on 14.03.2023 and the Court granted Leave to Proceed and issued an Interim Order suspending the operation of OSF Circulars which give powers to District and Divisional Secretaries to alienate other state forests, until the final determination of the case.
The case was fixed for Hearing on 02.10.2023.