In 2008, environmental organisations such as Wildlife First and the Wildlife Trust of India challenged the constitutionality of the Forest Rights Act, 2006. They questioned whether Parliament had the legislative competence to enact the Act.
Though the court is yet to decide the constitutional challenge, in February 2019 it directed States to evict forest dwellers whose claims had been rejected. Over a million forest dwellers were potentially affected. Two weeks later, on 28 February, the court stayed its own order, citing concerns over whether States had followed due process in rejecting claims.
Next Wednesday, 24 July, the court will revisit these issues and explore other remedies to better balance the rights of the Scheduled Tribes and other traditional forest dwellers with forest conservation. For a possible approach see Sharachchandra Lele’s ‘Forest Governance’, where he proposes a multi-layered governance model for resolving the tension between forest dwellers, conservationists and other key stakeholders.
The next hearing is on Wednesday, 24 July.
SC Observer Desk