Supreme Court vacates interim order of Madras High Court on the issue of patta to Forest Dwellers

countryside-249205_640The Supreme Court has on February1, vacated the interim order dated April 30, 2008 granted by the Madras High Court staying the issue of patta under the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 (FRA) on an application filed by Ministry Tribal Affairs.

Court observed that since except for the state of Tamil Nadu, in all other states, the inquiry regarding the various claims under FRA proceeded substantially, there was no justification to hold up the inquiry only in the State of Tamil Nadu.

The FRA was challenged before the High Court of Madras in Writ Petition (C) No. 4533 of 2008. By the aforesaid interim order, High Court had directed that the process of the verification of the claims under FRA can go on but no certificate of title should be issued pursuant to such verification without obtaining the orders of the High Court. After FRA was challenged before the Supreme Court, the writ petition before Madras HC came to be transferred to the SC.

In a press release, Ministry of Tribal Affairs, Government of India said:

While the Forest Rights Act is being implemented across the country it had come to a standstill in the State of Tamil Nadu as the Madras High Court had passed an interim order dated 30.4.2008 whereby the High Court had directed that no patta/title under FRA shall be issued without the permission of the High Court in WP (C) No.4533 of 2008.

Soon thereafter the Ministry of Tribal Affairs filed a petition for transfer of this writ petition to the Supreme Court and also filed a Special leave petition against the interim order of the High Court. Thereafter, the Ministry had also persuaded the State Government of Tamil Nadu to file an application for vacation of the interim order.

A three judge bench of the Supreme Court comprising of Shri Justice Jasti Chelameswar, Shri Justice Abhay Manohar Sapre and Shri Justice Amitava Roy heard the matter yesterday. Shri PS Narasimha, Additional Solicitor General appeard for the Ministry of Tribal Affairs, Government of India and submitted that when the FRA is being implemented across the entire country, there is no need for such an order to restrict its operation in only one State. The Court was inclined to agree with the aforesaid submissions, and accordingly passed a detailed order setting aside the interim order dated 30.4.2008 passed by the Madras High Court.

Till date approximately 44.12 lakh claims have been filed and more than 17.10 lakh titles have been distributed in the various States with the exception of the State of Tamil Nadu, where the implementation of FRA has been at a standstill thus far. Though 21,781 claims have been filed in the State of Tamil Nadu and 3,723 titles are ready for distribution, the State Government had, till now, not been able to distribute the titles due to the stay order of the Madras High Court being in force. Now, with the vacation of the interim order, it is anticipated that the filing and processing of claims and recognition of forest rights in the State of Tamil Nadu will gather speed and the forest dwelling Scheduled Tribes and the other traditional forest dwellers in the State of Tamil Nadu can look forward to their forest rights being finally recognised, vested and recorded.

Complete order can be read here.

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