The Centre and the State of Gujarat has filed
applications urging the Supreme Court to modify its February 13 order. The
Supreme Court had directed the eviction of more than 10 lakh of Scheduled
Tribes (STs) and other traditional forest dwellers whose claims for forest land
rights have been rejected under the Forest Rights Act of 2006.
According to the centre’s application the forest
rights Act, 2006, is in tune with several international covenants such as a) UN
universal declaration on human rights which recognizes the equal rights of the
human family (India is a signatory), b) UN convention concerning Indigenous and
tribal population which seeks to protect ownership rights of population over lands
they traditionally occupy ( Ratified by India), c) UN declaration on rights of
Indigenous people which mandates to protect the rights of indigenous people to
lands, territories and resources which they traditionally own, occupy and use (India
is a signatory), d) UN convention on
biological diversity: advocates preservation of indigenous knowledge and
practices (India is a party) and , e) Rio declaration on Environment and Development:
Proclaims indigenous people have a vital role in environmental management.
In its application, the Centre has said that the
claims of lakhs of forest-dwelling STs and other traditional forest dwellers
were rejected by the States without observing due process of law. The
Centre also argued that that there is no specific provision in the 2006 Act for
eviction after a claim is rejected.
Section 6 of the FRA provides a transparent
three step procedure for deciding on who gets rights under the Act: a) the Gram
Sabha makes a recommendation, b) the gram sabha’s recommendation goes through
two stages of screening committees at the taluka and district levels c) At both
the taluka and the district levels, any person who believes a claim is false
can appeal to the Committees, and if they prove their case the right is denied.
When the claim is recognised under the Act, and the land cannot be sold or
The Centre has highlighted various issues with filing
and verification of claims of rights under FRA, 2006: a) illiterate and poor tribes
and forest dwellers do not know the appropriate procedure for filing claims, b)
The gram sabhas are low on awareness about how to deal with these claims, c) unrealistic
timelines in deciding claims, d) lack of support from the district
administration concerned in providing revenue or forest maps, e) rejection of
claims despite incomplete or insufficient evidence, and f) rejection orders not
communicated to the forest-dwelling STs and communities.