The Supreme Court is assessing the constitutional validity of the Forest Rights Act 2006.
In 2008, Wildlife First and a series of other environmental organisations moved the Supreme Court to assess the constitutional validity of the Forest Rights Act (Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006). They argue that the Act has led to deforestation and encrochment upon forest land.
Individuals seeking to be granted rights under the Act must be able to demonstrate that they have been and continue to either (i) reside on forests or forestland, or, (ii) dependent on forest produce for their livelihood. The Act recognises two classes of persons who are elligible to claim rights under it:
One of the petitioners' main prayers was to seek the recovery of forest land enroched upon by individuals who had their claims to land under the Forest Rights Act rejected.
In 2014, the petitioners filed an interlocutory application, requesting the Court to order States to evict illegal forest dwellers.
On 13th February 2019, the Supreme Court ordered States to evict all individuals who had their claims rejected under the Act by 24th July 2019. Further, it directed the Forest Survey of India to conduct a satellite survey and place on record encroachment positions before and after evictions. Finally, it directed the Chief Secretaries of various States to submit affidavits explaining why they had up until now failed to evict individuals, who had had their claims rejected.
On 28th February, the Court placed a stay on its own order, directing States to submit whether due process had been followed in rejecting claims.
Note that the Supreme Court directed its order towards the following States:
1) Is the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 constitutional?
2) Is the process for filing claims under the Recognition of Forest Rights Act, 2006 valid?