THE Congress government in Chhattisgarh is considering filing a review petition in Supreme Court against its order which said forest dwellers whose claims have been rejected under the Forest Rights Act will have to be evicted by state governments.
This comes after Congress chief Rahul Gandhi wrote to Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel, suggesting the filing of a review petition if he saw fit. Senior officials of the state government said that on January 22, they had decided to reconsider all rejections under the FRA and are, therefore, likely to communicate to the apex court that these applications should not stand as rejected, but under active consideration.
In his letter to Baghel, Rahul wrote that the recent order required the chief minister’s urgent intervention. “The Ministry of Tribal Affairs in its status report on the implementation of the FRA highlighted that less than 45 per cent of the Individual Forest Rights and 50 per cent of the community rights claims were approved as on April 2018. Further, MOTA had pointed out that forest staff often raised frivolous objections leading to rejection. In this backdrop, evictions based on rejected claims alone, without a proper review and appeal process violates the due process of law… In order to pre-empt large scale evictions it would be expedient to file a review petition and take any other action you may seem fit,” he wrote.
Responding, Baghel wrote on his social media platforms, “In this fight for jal, jungle, zameen, we are standing with our adivasi brothers and sisters. According to the instructions by Congress president Rahul Gandhi, the state government will put up its own advocate in the next hearing of the Supreme Court and also submit a review petition if the need arises.”
Senior government officials said the “review petition option” was under serious consideration. “Our stand will be that under the previous government, there is clear evidence of claims being rejected summarily on weak grounds. In that atmosphere, it is incorrect for someone to lose their home for generations. On January 22, the state government put all rejected cases under reconsideration, and we will communicate to the court that therefore, as it stands today, there are no rejections as such,” said an official.
An opportunity for Congress in run-up to polls
The Congress response to the Supreme Court order is a political opportunity. In states with tribal population such as Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand and Odisha, there has always been anger against what the forest dwellers see as their land being usurped. With the Lok Sabha elections round the corner, this is the Congress’s chance to woo tribal voters.
In a statement, the Congress alleged that the previous BJP government had “prevented” people from filing claims.
MP govt forms panel to suggest next step
The Madhya Pradesh government on Sunday constituted a committee in the light of the apex court order to evict those whose claims under the FRA have been rejected. The committee, which has been asked to suggest the next course of action, comprises the state home minister, law minister, forest minister and tribal development minister and principal secretary, tribal welfare, will be its convener. The committee, which has been asked to suggest the next course of action, has been set up by Chief Minister Kamal Nath and will soon submit its report on action to be taken.