SC Suspends Order Evicting Forest Dwellers

The Supreme Court suspended the implementation of its controversial February 13, 2019, order directing states to evict around 2 million forest-dwellers from forests after the tribal affairs ministry pointed out that process of settling their claims and rights left a lot to be desired.

A bench, comprising Justices Arun Mishra, Navin Sinha and MR Shah, directed states to suspend the implementation of the order temporarily.

Instead, it asked all states to submit detailed information that would allow the bench to examine whether the due process was followed; whether tribals got a fair opportunity to present their claims; and also file appeals against the rejection of their claims.

The court demanded to know if state governments had followed the due process in issuing eviction orders against those whose claims were rejected. The court gave the state governments time till July 10, 2016, to submit the information.

The court also sought sample rejection orders amid complaints that most were non-speaking orders, that is, they did not give any reasons justifying the order.

The bench had earlier passed an order asking states to begin evicting these forest dwellers after states said they were not able to establish their traditional rights over these lands. The order came on a PIL which had challenged the validity of the Forest Rights Act 2006 which sought to recognise the traditional rights of all those who had lived in forests for three generations before Dec 31, 2005.

The bench slammed the central government for failing to speak up earlier on the loopholes in the implementation of the Act which led to states to identifying such huge numbers for eviction.

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