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SC seeks details of action taken by Goa on rejected forest land claims

PANAJI: The Supreme Court, in its recent order, has asked 21 states including Goa to submit details on the number of claims adjudicated under the Scheduled Tribes and Other Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 while also directing the eviction of those people living on forest land whose claims have been rejected by the authorities.

The Supreme Court on February 13 passed extensive directions to 21 states regarding eviction of those Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers from forest land who have not been successful in establishing their claims as forest dwellers under the Scheduled Tribes and Other Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 or Forests Rights Act, 2006.

Goa’s affidavit before the apex court indicates that 6,094 claims have been filed by persons from Scheduled Tribes while 4,036 claims have been filed by Other Traditional Forest Dwellers.

The court has asked the state to provide details as to how many claims have been adjudicated. In case the eviction orders have attained finality, the state should indicate whether those incumbents have been evicted or not, the order states.

As per data up to October 2018, provided by the tribal welfare department, 67 claims have been approved by District Level Committee (DLC) for individual titles, 46 claims have been rejected and 35 titles have been distributed in Goa whereas out of 376 community claims 11 have been approved by DLC, 8 titles have been distributed and one claim has been rejected.

The court has also asked the Chief Secretary to ensure that eviction is carried out and a compliance report is submitted on or before the next date of hearing on July 24, 2019. The bench of Justices Arun Mishra, Navin Sinha and Indira Banerjee has directed the states to ensure the eviction of all those persons from forest land whose claims under the Forest Rights Act have been rejected.

The Chief Secretaries of the respective states have to explain before the apex court why the rejected claimants have not been evicted. They have been directed to ensure eviction in all cases where rejection orders have been passed, on or before July 24. “In case the eviction is not carried out, as aforesaid, the matter would be viewed seriously by this court,” the bench sternly warned the states.

The direction comes with regard to a batch of petitions filed by an NGO ‘Wildlife First’ and a few retired forest officials, challenging the validity of Forests Rights Act.

According to the petitioners, the Act has led to deforestation and encroachment of forest land. The petitions, filed way back in 2008, also seek recovery of forest land from possession of those persons, whose claims under the Forests Rights Act stand rejected. According to them, approximately 20.5 lakh claims were rejected out of the 44 lakh claims across states.

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