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Centre Moves Supreme Court Over Eviction Order of Tribals From Forest Areas

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NEW DELHI: The Centre on Wednesday moved the Supreme Court seeking modification of its February 13 order directing the states to evict “forest-dwelling scheduled tribes” (FDSTs) and “other traditional forest dwellers” (OTFDs) from the forest areas.

The February 13 order of the apex court order is applicable for the forest-dwelling scheduled tribes and other traditional forest dwellers whose claims have been rejected under the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006.

The Centre in its modification application has urged the court to “pass an order modifying order dated 13.2.2019 and directing the state governments to file detailed affidavits regarding the procedure followed and details of the rejection of claims of FDSTs and OTFDs” under the 2006 Act.

The Centre has pointed to the historical proximity of the forest-dwelling communities including tribes with forest lands and referred to the National Forest Police (NFP)’s view to buttress its contention.

The NFP says that “having regard to the symbiotic relationship between the tribal people and forests, a primary task of all agencies responsible for forest management, including the forest development corporations, should be to associate the tribal people closely in the protection, regeneration and development of forests, as well as to provide gainful employment to people living in and around the forest”.

Referring to the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006, the Centre has submitted that the statute was enacted to “correct the historical process by which tribal and other forest-dwelling communities in the country were alienated from their right to habitation and right to occupy and hold forest land and forest produce”.

It has further underlined that the “statute is predominantly enacted to protect the marginalized socio-economic class of citizens and balances the right to environment with the right to life and livelihood”.

The Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 206, the Centre has told the court, was an “example of the constitutionally mandated protective legislation under Article 15(4) of the Constitution of India which specifically empowers the state to make special provision for the advancement of any socially and educationally backward classes of citizens or for the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes”.

The application for the modification of February 13 order has also referred to international conventions and declarations that are binding on it and India “having actively participated in the formulation of these legal principles is constitutionally bound to ensure that these are implemented within the country in letter and spirit”.

The international conventions and declarations that India is bound to adhere to include United Nation Universal Declaration on Human Rights, UN Convention Concerning Indigenous and Tribal Populations (1957), UN Declaration on Rights of Indigenous People, UN Convention on Biological Diversity, Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, and Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests (UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, 2012).

It has also pointed out that the international conservation organisations in recent years have strongly advocated respect for the relationship between forest-dwelling communities. (IANS)

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