Department probing options to implead in the case

Bewildered by the way two non-tribals of Kulathupuzha in Kollam district have challenged awarding of title deeds to two landless Kani families in the same locality under provisions of the Forest Rights Act, the State Scheduled Tribes Development Department has started probing options to implead in the case.

The non-tribals had moved a munsiff court at Punalur last week for scraping the title deeds obtained by the Kani families, saying the land in question originally belonged to them. They claimed that they had been using the three acres of land for over half a century for agricultural purposes on lease from the tribal families. The court is likely to consider the case next week.

‘‘It’s a strange case of non-tribals claiming rights to traditional forest land inherited by local tribals from their forefathers. They filed the case against the tribals who obtained title deeds under the Forest Rights Act. Though the department is not a direct respondent in the case, we have started probing legal options, including impleading in the case,’’ said G. Rishikesan Nair, deputy director of the department, when contacted.

‘‘The complainants are not traditional forest dwellers and we have reasons to believe that the move is part of a larger bid to torpedo the ongoing land distribution by the department,’’ he said.

‘‘As per the law, land rights must be granted only to families which live within the forests for at least three generations. These people claim they had been holding the land on lease for just half a century. Taking tribal land on lease itself amounts to gross violation of the law,’’ he said.

‘‘The case will not withstand legal scrutiny. However, it is interesting to note non-tribals challenging tribal rights,’’ said C.R. Bijoy, activist for the Forest Rights Act.

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