Should Trees Have Legal Rights

Author:- Saumya Dwivedi


“Trees” comes below the Concurrent list of Schedule 7 of the Constitution of India and consequently both State and Central government has the ability to make laws for it. “Tree” as such isn’t referenced in the constitution. Article 51-A(g) of the Fundamental Duties expresses that “it is the crucial obligation of each resident to secure and protect timberlands, lakes and streams and to have sympathy for each living being.” The expression “living being” can be deciphered to incorporate trees also. Yet, lamentably, this line of understanding isn’t followed.

In 1974, Christopher Stone in his paper “Should Trees Have Standing?” argued the need to perceive the legal rights of nature when all is said in done and of trees specifically. After more than four decades, legal rights of nature are being perceived in certain purviews. Rivers were perceived as legal entities by the courts in India. Legal rights of nature are being perceived by numerous nations the whole way across the globe. New Zealand turned into the first nation to perceive a river as a lawful element when it perceived the privileges of Whanganui River and said that it can sue and can be sued as a different lawful being.

This status was given when the parliament of New Zealand passed the Te Awa Tupua [Whanganui River Claims Settlement] Bill 2017. Following the point of reference, Uttarakhand High Court in Mohd Salim v State of Uttarakhand in 2017 announced Ganga and Yamuna as Juristic people. Not just rivers, in 2014 SC in the milestone judgment of Animal Welfare Board v A Nagaraja said that “animals have nobility, honour and their privileges to security should be protected from unlawful attack”. Ecuador was the first nation to unavoidably perceive the privileges of nature.

Its constitution says that “nature has the option to exist, endure, keep up and recover its essential life cycles, designs and its cycles in development.” Recognition of privileges of nature is exceptionally vital as the danger to nature is expanding step by step. It is essential to ensure them as a person in his fixation on better innovation, actual foundation and advancement is undermining even the presence of these normal creatures and accordingly endurance of living creatures. Indeed, even legitimately secured regions like regular parks, asylums are turning out to be casualties of this improvement cycle.


“Trees” are remembered for the Concurrent List III  under the Indian Constitution and, in this manner, both the centre and state governments are engaged to administer regarding the matter. There is, indeed, no specific notice of “trees” essentially in the Constitution. The Fundamental Duties explicitly notice that it is the key obligation of each resident to secure and safeguard trees, lakes and rivers and to have sympathy for each living being, according to Article 51 A (g). The expression “living being” might be deciphered to incorporate trees also. In any case, this extended translation has not been followed. Dissimilar to on account of trees, with a central enactment as the Forest (Conservation) Act, 1980, there is no central enactment for the conservation of trees.

Laws regarding the protection of trees have been authorized exclusively by the different state lawmaking bodies. The information of the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), 2017 which has a complete record of every single ecological wrongdoing, be that as it may, does exclude the different tree safeguarding laws in its record. The particular laws for the protection of trees outside forest regions incorporate the Karnataka Preservation of  Trees Act, 1976, the Delhi Preservation of Trees Act, 1994 and the Goa, Daman and Diu Preservation of Trees Act, 1984. It is intriguing to take note of that however the laws were ordered by various states on various occasions, the substance is something similar and they all comprehensively comprise a similar example: tree officer, tree authority, methodology for looking for consent for felling of trees, and the circumstances wherein such authorizations must be conceded.

One regular element of practically all the tree safeguarding laws is the constitution of a tree authority just as the assignment of a tree officer. The tree protection laws follow the overall design of the criminal law and accommodate excellent forces to the tree official, including the forces to capture without a warrant. The main force given to the tree official is the ability to settle on applications for permission for the felling of trees. However the greater part of the state laws accommodate a tree authority, the authority has no job in choosing whether trees ought to be felled or not. As it were, it is the tree officer who practices genuine power.

It, subsequently, gets critical to inspect the job of the tree officer driven by people looking for authorization for felling of trees. The very year as Stone’s article, Justice Douglas of the Supreme Court contended in a popular contradiction to Sierra Club v. Morton that trees and other normal resources ought to have legal rights. The US Supreme Court  Justice William O. Douglas wrote a dissenting opinion wherein he argued that the standing doctrine has to permit environmental businesses including the Sierra Club to sue on behalf of inanimate things including land. There is precedent for inanimate things to have felony persona for the motive of lawsuits, and those who’ve got that intimate relation with the inanimate things approximately to be injured, polluted, or in any other case despoiled are its valid spokesmen.

Under the “natural resource damages” arrangements of these laws, governments can sue for remuneration for injury to natural resources—for the benefit of those resources. Most obviously, the law says that legislatures, in this manner, are going about as “trustees” for natural resources, not suing by their own as governments. “Trustee,” critically, is a quite certain term utilized in law to depict a circumstance where a substance has its very own privilege yet can’t justify itself (for example a baby or an incapacitated individual) for that right.

Also, the law necessitates that all recuperations be spent on the actual asset; the public authority can’t spend natural resource damages, say, on streets or schools. The money has a place with the resources, not to the public authority.


  • Indian Forest Act, 1927

The Indian Forest Act, 1927 gives the legitimate system to the administration of woodlands in India. It is the premier controlling enactment in ranger service.
The target of this piece of enactment is to guarantee:

  1. combination and safeguarding of regions with woodland cover
  2. preservation of forest regions with untamed life
  3. manage the development of forest assets
  4. demand obligation on wood and different assets and other timberland produce
  5. order of regions into Reserved Forest, Protected Forest and Village Forests
  • Forest Conservation Act, 1980

The Forest Conservation Act, 1980 spotlights on the redirection of forest regions for non-ranger service purposes. The State government goes about as the upholding expert for all solicitations and proposition to utilize woodland land for improvement and foundation building, for example, giving drinking water, water system projects, transmission lines, rail route, power, guard, mining and so forth The Act additionally gives that to all woodland land lost to such advancement compensatory afforestation, catchment region treatment, biodiversity and untamed life preservation, restoration of ancestral networks living on timberland lands are matters that ought to be tended to by the state and different gatherings included.

  • National Forestry Policy, 1988

The arrangement lays accentuation on the idea of Joint Forest Management where towns and the applicable woodland office oversee explicit timberland impedes together to

  1. meet the essential requirements of provincial and ancestral populaces,
  2. increment timberland efficiency
  3. improve the effectiveness of forest item use
  4. limit tension on existing timberlands

The Joint Forest Management plot is maybe the awesome best technique to have risen up out of the National Forestry Policy with 85, 000 town boards of trustees set up across 27 Indian states overseeing 17.3 million hectares of woodland land under them.

  • Wildlife Protection Act, 1972

This Act centers around the securing wild creatures, plants and tree species and makes chasing and gathering such creatures and plants in ensured zones a criminal offense. Bodies like the National Tiger Conservation Authority and the Tiger and Other Endangered Species Crime Control Bureau (Wildlife Crime Control Bureau).

  • Schedules Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition and Forest Rights) Act, 2006

This Act came into the play to only allow rights and concessions and to secure the lifestyle of forest subordinate networks that rely upon backforest for their every day resource their occupations.


There are three genuine calculated and procedural issues that emerge in the event that standing is allowed to lifeless normal things. To start with , the relationship among trees and organizations or boats isn’t pretty much as influential as it first shows up. Valid, common people have and own natural things, just as they do organizations and boats. Private responsibility for a corporate element or a boat, in any case, is quite not very  same as responsibility for natural article. Dissolution of an organization or annihilation of a boat once in a while, if at any point, affects expansive public interests that contention with the interests of the proprietors. Conversely, obliteration of common items is frequently of incredible worry to numerous people other than proprietors. Acknowledgment of  legal status that allows a company or boat to sue or to be sued in its own name is to help its proprietors; it limits liabilities and works on lawful strategies that in any case would include various people (the proprietors).

Secondly , acknowledgment of a comparative legal status for lifeless natural article would profit those people whose interests go against those of the natural things’ proprietors. On the off potential for success that having to sue is allowed to normal things by their own doing, at that point one should recognize that this isn’t simply an augmentation of present legal hypotheses. It is a totally different recommendation. Stone appears to concur, however he recommends that the new methodology is all things considered not any more progressive than the first acknowledgment of the company as a lawful element. Besides, vesting remaining in a characteristic article assumes that the courts should find some kind of harmony between the article’s advantages and rights furthermore, the human interests or rights relating to the article.

 Thirdly Stone perceives is that conceding remaining to regular things doesn’t guarantee the assurance of public rights and interests in utilizing and getting a charge out of those items. The baffled exertion of residents to secure public rights in the new Save Sand Key case  offers a genuine illustration of this. In Save Sand Key the Florida Supreme Court, disregarding the region court’s insightful analysis and dismissal of the “unique injury” rule,” tossed the residents out of court in yielding to that old, seemingly out of date teaching.


It is an extremely ongoing thing that legal executive, lawmakers, activists and individuals are understanding that even normal creatures are qualified for rights. NGT which is made explicitly to manage issues identifying with nature held that it can mediate issue identified with trees outside timberlands also. We have laws to secure trees yet we need to make them more commonsense and sensible. We need to understand that a lesser level official can’t in a nation like India deny consent to a proposition proposed by the public authority. He doesn’t have a lot of decision in choosing whether the sensation of trees ought to be permitted or not or sometimes the public authority gets away from the cycle by utilizing a few special cases. Our legal executive is likewise attempting to save these characteristic endowments which we got whether it is a restriction on mining causing the public authority to understand that it can’t flee from its obligations. This is high time we understood that we can’t get by without these resources whether it is a waterway, air, forest or trees.

Author Saumya Dwivedi is currently pursuing BBA LLB (H) from Amity University, Lucknow.

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