The apex court has asked states to file affidavits describing process followed to reject tribals’ claims to traditional forestlands
The Supreme Court, on February 28, 2019, accepted the Union government's appeal, stayed its two-week-old order and permitted 21 states to temporarily withhold eviction of lakhs of forest dwellers, whose claim to the land had been rejected.
The apex court on February 13, 2019, under the Scheduled Tribes and Other Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act 2006 (Forests Rights Act), asked state governments to file affidavits about action taken against encroachments on forest lands. The apex court was then hearing a petition by wildlife organisations and retired forest officials against the Forest Rights Act (FRA).
More than 11 lakh Schedule Tribes and other forest dwelling tribes were affected by this order.
In its written order on February 20, the court also directed the states to act against encroachers where eviction notices were given.
On February 27, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, on behalf of the Centre, pled that the order be modified as it causes serious prejudice to several people’s lives.
A bench comprising Justices Arun Mishra and Naveen Sinha also asked states to file affidavits describing the process they adopted to reject claims.
The bench said there's a need to check if gram sabhas and state authorities under FRA followed due process while dealing with the forest right claims.
The court has given states four months to respond to allegations of high rate of rejections, non-communication of rejection orders, lack of reasons in orders and frivolous objections.
If a claim is rejected, the claimant has to be informed about the reasons for rejection. Then, the claimant has 90 days to appeal against it.
“No petition of the aggrieved person shall be disposed of, unless he has been given a reasonable opportunity to present anything in support of his claim,” the law says.
Several states, including Rajasthan, Jharkhand, Odisha and others have already witnessed protests against the SC’s February 13 order.
The case will be next heard on July 10, 2019.
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