Forest Rights Act Case: What is at stake?

  1. Recently, there were protests in districts with sizeable tribal populations. The protests took place over two issues- a) proposed amendments to the Indian Forest Act (IFA), 1927 and b) a Forest Rights Act (FRA) case that will be heard in the Supreme Court.
  2. In February 2019, the Supreme court had ordered eviction of more than 10 lakh Scheduled Tribe and other forest-dwellers (OTFDs) households from forestlands across 21 states after their claims over forest land rights under the FRA, 2006 were rejected by states. Later, the SC had stayed its order.
  3. The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 seeks to recognize forest rights of Scheduled Tribes and other traditional forest dwellers who have been occupying and are dependent on the forest land for generations. It envisions the forest rights committee of a village as the central unit in managing forest resources.
  4. In March 2019, the government proposed the draft law called as Indian Forest Act, 2019. The act is seeks to amend the Indian Forest Act, 1927.
  5. The draft law proposes greater policing powers to the Forest Department including the use of firearms, and veto power to override the FRA.
  6. According to the proposed act, village forests are defined as forestland or wasteland, which is the property of the government. It would be jointly managed by the community through the Joint Forest Management Committee or Gram Sabha.
  7. According to activists, the amendment to Indian Forest Act undermine the rights of tribal and experts would lead to conflicts during implementation, particularly when seen in the context of the Forest Rights Act, 2006.