The Centre and the Gujarat government have moved petitions in the Supreme Court seeking a stay on its order evicting more than 10 lakh families of Adivasis and other forest-dwellers from forest lands across 16 states. A bench of Justices Arun Mishra and Naveen Sinha agreed to hear the petitions on Thursday, Live Law reported.
The court heard petitions challenging the validity of the Forest Rights Act on February 13. The petitioners had demanded that those whose claims over traditional forest lands are rejected under the new law should be evicted. The Centre’s lawyer was missing from the hearing on that day, alleged the Campaign for Survival and Dignity, a group of several adivasi and forest dwellers’ movements.
The court had directed state governments to evict Adivasis whose claims have been rejected. It had warned the states that “the matter would be viewed seriously” if this order was not carried out.
Nearly 3.5 lakh claims have been rejected in Madhya Pradesh, and 1.5 lakh in Odisha. Uttarakhand has the least number of rejected claims at 51, Live Law reported.
The Parliament had passed the Forest Rights Act in 2006. The law gave back to traditional forest dwellers their rights to access, manage and govern forest lands and resources within village boundaries, which had been controlled by the forest department since colonial times. The law makes the gram sabha the statutory body for managing forestlands, and protecting them. It provides that no activity should be carried out in these forests until individual and community claims over them have been settled.
On February 23, Congress President Rahul Gandhi had asked the chief ministers of Chhattisgarh and Madhya Pradesh to file a review petition against the Supreme Court order. On February 25, Bharatiya Janata Party National President Amit Shah said that he had also asked chief ministers of all BJP-ruled states affected by the order to file a review petition.