Implementation of Forest Rights

A PIL was filed by wildlife activists in 2008 challenging the constitutional validity of the Forest Rights Act. On 13th February, 2019, the Supreme Court ordered that all persons whose claims are rejected should be evicted from the forest lands. As per data from the Ministry of Tribal Affairs, 50% of claims made since 2007 have been rejected. Out of 42.24 lakh claims received, 18.94 lakh have received titles, 19.39 lakh have been rejected, and 4 lakh are still being assessed.

According to tribal rights’ groups, claims are often rejected at the Sub-Divisional Level Committee (SFLC) and District Level Committee (DLC) arbitrarily without complete documentation. After public uproar, the SC stayed its order on 28th February 2019. The SC gave the States 4 months to report on the procedure followed for rejecting claims and the appeals procedure.

Those who are entitled to forest rights- under Scheduled Tribes & Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights Act, 2006), are Forest-dwelling Scheduled Tribes (FDSTs), who primarily reside in and depend on forest land for livelihood needs, and Other traditional forest-dwellers (OTFDs), which is any community which has resided in and has depended on forest land for at least 3 generations (75 years) prior to 13.12.2005. These rights may be held under individual or community tenure or both. It includes the right to hold and live in the forest land for habitation or self-cultivation for livelihood; the right to ownership, access to collect, use, and dispose of minor forest produce which have been traditionally collected; the rights for conversion of Pattas/leases/grants issued by local authority/State government on forest lands into Titles; the rights to in situ rehabilitation, including alternative land, in cases where the STs or OTFDs have been illegally evicted or displaced from forest land.

Several tribal rights organisations have filed impleadment applications before the Supreme Court to become parties to the ongoing PIL to ensure that no adverse orders are passed against tribals without hearing their voices. The impleadment applications also lay down the issues in implementation of the Forest Rights Act and contain state-specific data as well as national trends.

Impleadment Applications filed Statewise

1. Bihar
- Wildlife First & Ors. vs Union of India & Ors.
2. Chhattisgarh
3. Karnataka
4. Kerala
5. Madhya Pradesh
6. Maharashtra
7. Uttar Pradesh
8. Uttrakhand
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