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Ministry violated rules in pushing forest bill: Activists

The Bill was referred to a joint parliamentary committee (JPC) instead of the standing committee to bypass scrutiny.
Last Updated : 28 July 2023, 23:31 IST
Last Updated : 28 July 2023, 23:31 IST

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The Environment Support Group (ESG) has said that the Union Environment Ministry has violated the Government of India (Allocation of Business) Rules, 1961 by not consulting the Ministry of Tribal Affairs (MoTA) in the process of preparing the Forest (Conservation) Amendment Bill.

The ESG noted that the Allocation of Business Rules 1961 states that MoTA was in charge of "all the matters, including legislation relating to the rights of the forest-dwelling Schedule Tribes". However, the replies in the Rajya Sabha by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) show a lack of compliance with the rule.

On Thursday, the MoEF&CC told the Rajya Sabha that the Bill was proposed "after carrying out inter-ministerial, State and public consultation" and a note on the bill was circulated to all ministries, including the MoTA. But the MoEF&CC fails to specifically respond to the question if the proposal was made in accordance with the Allocation of Rules, the ESG said.

The note, authored by ESG Trustees Leo Saldanha and Bhargavi S Rao and Research Associate Nidhi Hanji, also noted that the MoEF&CC failed to follow the consultation policy which requires a ministry/department to publish, along with the draft legislation, the justification of the amendments, its possible impact on the environment, fundamental rights and lives and livelihood of the people.

The Bill was referred to a joint parliamentary committee (JPC) instead of the standing committee to bypass scrutiny. "A review of the JPC report reveals that no person, who is a forest-dwelling schedule tribe or other traditional forest dwellers, was invited to depose before the committee," the ESG said.

The ministry not only violated the country's democratic environmental jurisprudential traditions but also went against the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, Rio de Janeiro Declaration ratified by India, they said.

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Published 28 July 2023, 16:43 IST

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