The Supreme Court has ordered 21 state governments to ensure eviction of lakhs of Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers whose claims have been rejected under the Forest Rights Act, 2006.
A bench of Justices Arun Mishra, Navin Sinha and Indira Banerjee directed chief secretaries of various states, including of Karnataka, to explain as to why after the rejection of the claims, which have attained finality, eviction has not been made.
In Karnataka, 48,432 claims have been filed by Scheduled Tribes and 2,27,014 by ‘Other Traditional Forest Dwellers’ (OTFDs). Out of these, 35,521 claims of STs and 1,41,019 claims of OTFDs have been rejected.
“The Chief Secretary shall ensure that where the rejection orders have been passed, the eviction will be carried out on or before the next date of hearing. In case the eviction is not carried out, as aforesaid, the matter would be viewed seriously by this court,” the bench said in its order passed on February 13.
Dealing with a 2008 writ petition filed by NGO ‘Wildlife First’ and others, the court directed for the filing of the requisite affidavit with necessary details on or before July 12, 2019.
It ordered the states where the verification or reverification or review process was pending to do the needful within four months and report back to the court.
“Let Forest Survey of India (FSI) make a satellite survey and place on record the encroachment positions and also state the positions after the eviction as far as possible,” the court directed.
Notably, Section 6 of the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act of 2006 provides a multi-layered and hierarchical procedure for recognition or rejection of forest-dweller claims starting at the gram sabha level with multiple appellate committees at the state level.
The Act provides a framework to “recognize and vest the forest rights and occupation in forest land in forest dwelling Scheduled Tribes and other traditional forest dwellers who have been residing in such forests for generations but whose rights could not be recorded”.
The claims of thousands of STs and OTFDs were rejected in states of Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Goa, Gujarat, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Kerala, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Telangana, Tripura, Uttarakhand, Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal and Manipur.