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Supreme Court Rules Eviction of Over 10 Lakh Tribal Families Across 16 States

The order was passed on a PIL which challenged the validity of the Forest Rights Act, passed in 2006 to give back to traditional forest dwellers their right to access, manage and govern forests.

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Updated:February 21, 2019, 11:21 AM IST
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Supreme Court Rules Eviction of Over 10 Lakh Tribal Families Across 16 States
Illustration by Mir Suhail/News18.com
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New Delhi: The Supreme Court has ordered the eviction of more than 10 lakh families from tribal communities and other forest dwellers from forests in across 16 states.

The order was in reaction to a PIL, challenging the validity of the Forest Rights Act, passed in 2006 by Parliament to give back to traditional forest dwellers their right to access, manage and govern forests within their village boundaries.

The order is politically contentious and earlier on February 14, Congress president Rahul Gandhi had alleged that the BJP was acting as a “silent spectator” while the act was being challenged in the court. “It is indicating its intentions to drive out lakhs of tribals and poor farmers from the forests (sic),” he had said.

The plea in the case had demanded that those whose claims over traditional forestlands are rejected under the new law be evicted.

Meanwhile, the Campaign for Survival and Dignity, a consortium of several adivasi groups and forest dwellers’ movement, has alleged that the Centre’s lawyer was absent on the day of the hearing.

The three-judge member, comprising Justices Arun Mishra, Navin Sinha and Indrani Banerjee, gave the states time till July 27 (when the matter will be heard next) and directed the governments to evict all those whose claims were rejected.

“In case the eviction is not carried out, as aforesaid, the matter would be viewed seriously by this court,” the order said, while adding that states explain why no eviction was taken place so far, in spite of the claims.

As per the affidavits filed by the states, as many as 11,72,931 land ownership claims made by Scheduled Tribes and other traditional forest dwellers, under the Forest Rights Act have so far been rejected on different grounds.

Three states — Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka and Odisha — account for 20% of the total claims of land ownership that have been rejected. In cases where the process of verification or review was pending, the court said, “Let the Forest Survey of India make a satellite survey and place on record the encroachment positions and also state the positions after the eviction as far as possible,” it said.
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