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SC stays order directing states to evict over 10 lakh forest, tribal dwellers

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New Delhi, Feb 28: The Supreme Court on Thursday stayed its February 13 order that would have led to the forced eviction of over a million tribals and forest-dwellers.

The court had ordered eviction of the families that have not been able to prove their rights over the land they lived in, and had been tagged as illegal residents by the state governments.

SC stays order directing states to evict over 10 lakh forest, tribal dwellers

A bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra put the January 10 order in abeyance following a plea by the Ministry of Tribal Affairs that had pleaded for a stay of the judicial order in the interest of the forest-dwelling Scheduled Tribes (FDSTs) and other traditional forest dwellers (OTFDs) across 16 states.

The Bench also directed the states to submit affidavits detailing the procedure.

The state governments are also required to inform the court about which authority passed the order and whether the State Level Monitoring Committees monitored the process as required by law. Finally, they will have to furnish all these details within the next four months (i.e. before July).

The Centre in its plea said that as the forest dwellers were extremely poor and illiterate, it was difficult for them to substantiate their claims before the competent authorities.

The Union Ministry of Tribal Affairs, through Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, rushed to the top court for modification of the order saying the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 was a "beneficial" legislation and should be construed liberally to help "extremely poor and illiterate people" who are not well informed of their rights and procedure under the law.

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