The Supreme Court has said that the complaints of tribals of three districts in Madhya Pradesh regarding alleged harassment by forest officials and police inaction would be taken care of by the grievance redressal authority (GRAs) set up by it. The ‘Shramik Adivasi Sangathan’ had approached the apex court against the order of the Madhya Pradesh High Court which had dismissed their plea in which they had alleged that some officers of forest and police department were functioning as “feudal lords” and were considering tribals as their subjects.
A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice T S Thakur has directed the GRAs of Harda, Betul and Khandwa districts in the state to look into these issues and give their reports to the district judges concerned within three months. The court also directed the Madhya Pradesh government to extend “every possible help in terms of financial and manpower assistance to GRAs to complete the task given to them”.
“GRAs for Harda, Betul and Khandwa constituted pursuant to the order dated August 13, 2012 passed by this Court shall look into every case highlighted in writ petition…filed by the appellant and such other similar grievances and make their report/reports to the district judges concerned as early as possible and in any case not later than three months from the date of this judgement,” the bench, also comprising Justices R Banumathi and Uday Umesh Lalit, said.
“If the report/reports so made by GRAs make out a case as alleged, the station house officer concerned shall do well to act accordingly and the cases in question shall be taken to logical end, in a manner known to law,” it said.
The court’s order came on a plea filed by the organisation which is working in these three districts of Madhya Pradesh for field level intervention to demonstrate effective models of creative development. The petitioner had told the apex court that pursuant to its August 2012 order, GRAs were set up in these districts but no substantial work was undertaken. It had claimed that GRA set up in Harda has not been made functional till date while Betul’s GRA has passed only one order in the last three years while all other complaints were remaining undecided. The court was told the GRA of Khandwa district has not got many complaints.
“Since the issues and grievances highlighted in the writ petition would in any case have required some assessment of factual aspects of the matter and since the persons alleged to be victims come from the disadvantaged and underprivileged strata, this Court deemed fit to direct constitution of GRAs. Such authorities have since then been constituted and it is for the GRAs now to take up the responsibility and make appropriate recommendations,” the bench said. “Given the fact that Secretary of the District Legal Services Authority is the ex-officio Secretary of such GRA and the recommendatory report would be made to the District Judge, the proceedings would inspire confidence and redress all the grievances,” it said.