Modify Feb. 13 eviction order of lakhs of forest dwellers: Centre urges SC

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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 transferred.
  5. 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.