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SC stays eviction of tribals, forest-dwellers

However, the court said “the mighty and the undeserving” would be shown no mercy.

However, the court said “the mighty and the undeserving” would be shown no mercy.  

The Supreme Court on Thursday stayed its February 13 order directing the eviction of lakhs of the Scheduled Tribes and other traditional forest-dwellers, whose claims for forest land rights have been rejected under the Forest Rights Act, 2006.

But the Bench, led by Justice Arun Mishra, emphasised that “the mighty and the undeserving,” who had encroached on forest lands, would be shown no mercy. It acknowledged the need to delve into whether due process had been followed by the gram sabhas and the State authorities under the FRA before the claims for forest rights of the forest-dwelling Scheduled Tribes and other traditional forest dwellers were finally rejected.

Over 11 lakh people from the STs and OTFDs across 16 States faced the brunt of the February 13 order.

Directive to States

The court has given the States four months to file affidavits responding to complaints that there was a high rate of rejection of claims, non-communication of rejection orders, unrealistic time lines in deciding claims, irregular holding of State-Level Monitoring Committee meetings, lack of support from the district administrations concerned in providing revenue or forest maps and rejection of claims despite incomplete or insufficient evidence. In fact, the court wants to know whether tribals and OTFDs were ousted from forest lands on the basis of sketchy and incomplete information.

The order was passed by the Bench, comprising Justices Navin Sinha and M.R. Shah, on an application by the Centre to modify the February 13 order.

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