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Maharashtra Governor modifies law on forest rights

Raising their voice: Adivasis from Shahpur gather in Thane on Wednesday to protest irregular supply of essential food grain to ration card holders in the region.

Raising their voice: Adivasis from Shahpur gather in Thane on Wednesday to protest irregular supply of essential food grain to ration card holders in the region.   | Photo Credit: Specialarrangement

Tribals now have the right to appeal against district level committee decisions; activists fear further delay

Maharashtra Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari has modified the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006, allowing rightful claimants of forest rights to appeal against decisions of the district level committee (DLC).

Activists, however, are concerned that this will lead to further delays in implementation of forest laws.

A notification issued on May 18, 2020, said the Governor has modified Section 6 of the Act, in its application to Scheduled Area of the State of Maharashtra, in exercise of the powers conferred on him by Schedule V of the Constitution.

The Governor’s office said the notification is important to provide justice to tribals whose ‘individual or community forest right’ has been rejected by the DLC, constituted under the Forest Rights Act (FRA).

The notification applies to areas covered in the Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act in the State and allows appeal provision against the DLC’s decision.

The notification states that divisional level committees under the chairmanship of divisional commissioners have been constituted to hear the appeals against the DLC’s decisions. In the case of an order passed by the DLC before commencement of the notification, the application for appeal needs to be made within six months from the date of issue of notification. However, if an order has been passed after commencement of the notification, the application has to be made within 90 days of the date of communication of the DLC’s order, the notification said.

Despite a large number of applications being rejected, by DLCs, previously there was no provision in the Act for appeal against the decision, the notification said.

Activists fear delays

Activists, however, said the notification is a double-edged sword. A tribal farmer will find it difficult to make it to the district headquarters, said Milind Thatte, of Vayam, which works with tribals in Palghar district. “How can a divisional office or committee be accessible to that farmer? I fear that this committee will further delay implementation of FRA. Delay means denial of justice to genuine claimants and increased scope for fake claims,” said Mr. Thatte.

The need is for the spirit of the law to be maintained, he said. “This is not in the Governor’s hands. It is the responsibility of the State revenue and forests departments.”

Former chief minister Devendra Fadnavis had assured clearance of all claims in two months and suspension of DFOs who did not cooperate, but he did not keep his promise, he said. “And the current government has not paid any attention at all,” Mr. Thatte said.

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Printable version | Jul 16, 2020 7:23:55 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/maharashtra-governor-modifies-law-on-forest-rights/article31690811.ece

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