Chhattisgarh High Court prevents PSU from evicting forest rights title holders

Chhattisgarh Mineral Development Corporation had started mining in Sarguja district’s Pathrai village, where 50 Individual Forest Rights titles had been granted to claimants

By Ishan Kukreti
Published: Thursday 05 December 2019
Chhattisgarh High Court prevents PSU from evicting FRA holders
A forest in Chhattisgarh. Photo: Getty Images A forest in Chhattisgarh. Photo: Getty Images

The Chhattisgarh High Court ordered public sector undertaking (PSU), Chhattisgarh Mineral Development Corporation (CMDC), to stop mining activity in Pathrai village of Sarguja district’s Sitapur block on December 3, 2019.

The PSU had stared mining for bauxite in the area, where around 50 Individual Forest Rights titles had been granted to claimants.

Another 50 claims under the Forest Rights Act, 2006 (FRA) are pending, according to advocate Kishore Narayan. Under the provisions of FRA, claimants cannot be evicted unless their claims are settled.  

“First, the CMDC obtained a forged ‘No Objection Certificate’ (NoC) from the Gram Sabha. They told the Gram Sabha that its members would have to give their signatures to reject the mining plan. Instead, they got the NoC document signed. The villagers approached the court after CMDC started mining activity around 15 days back,” Narayan said.

The village, inhabited by with mostly Oraon and Manji tribal groups, comes under Schedule V of the Indian Constitution and is governed by the Panchayat (Extension to Schedule Areas) Act, 1996. Under the Act, no development activity can take place without the consent of the Gram Sabha.

Not only was a fake NoC obtained, the FRA title holders in the village were sent notices by the sub-divisional officer informing them that they were not eligible for grant of forest right titles and that they should appear before the officer.

“It is submitted that the notices have been issued to circumvent legal requirements for mining in the area where people have been issued forest right titles,” the petition filed by Peter Ghincha, said. Ghincha is a village resident, and holder of an FRA title over 0.2 hectare of forest land.    

The FRA doesn’t talk about cancelling of titles granted to forest dwellers. There are no provisions under the Act for doing so.

Interestingly, the CMDC’s mining project got Stage II Forest Clearance on June 19, 2018, based on the district collector’s letter of August 27, 2015, confirming that no rights under FRA were pending and no right holders were straying into the mining area. 

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