SC to examine constitutional validity of Forests Rights Act

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New Delhi, Mar 28 (UNI) The Supreme Court today decided to examine the constitutional validity of the Forests Rights Act, which provides for giving forest rights including lands to Scheduled Tribes (STs) and traditional forest dwellers.

A three-judge bench comprising Chief Justice K G Balakrishnan and Justices Arijit Pasayat and S H Kapadia issued notices to the Centre and all the states on the petition challenging the validity of STs and other traditional forest dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights Act 2006), which seeks to recognise and give forest rights including forest land to tribals and the natives of the forests.

The Act was notified by the Union Government in January this year after a prolonged legal battle between Wildlife experts and Tribal activists.

According to the petitioners including Bombay Natural History Society (BNHS), the main issue raised is whether Parliament can make laws in relation to forests which are a state subject.

The petitoners have also pointed out several ambiguities in the Act which will create serious problems in its implementations.

The petition filed by BNHS has also contended that the impugned Act also violated the fundamental rights of the petitioners to life and equality, and the Act is against the principles of sustainable development.

Another petitioner Wildlife First, Nature, Conservation, Society and Tiger Research and Conservation Trust also contended that the Act invades the powers of Gram Sabha and phrases like customary boundary of the village are vague and cannot be defined.

According to tribal groups, this is an attempt to sabotage the implementation of the Act, the sole aim of which is to deny the tribals, who mostly belong to the weaker and down-trodden segment of the society.

The apex court also directed that the national parks and wildlife sanctuaries should not be disturbed until and unless it is extremely necessary.

UNI SC PY RS1717

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