SC vacates interim order of Madras high court on issue of patta to forest dwellers

04 February 2016

The Supreme Court has vacated an interim order of 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 the ministry of tribal affairs.

While the Forest Rights Act is being implemented across the country it had come to a standstill in Tamil Nadu after the Madras high court passed an interim order on 30 April 2008 directing that no `patta' or title under FRA shall be issued without the permission of the high court.

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. 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 Justice Jasti Chelameswar, Justice Abhay Manohar Sapre and Justice Amitava Roy heard the matter yesterday.

PS Narasimha, additional solicitor general appeared for the ministry of tribal affairs 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 one state. The court was inclined to agree with the submissions, and accordingly passed a detailed order setting aside the interim order of the Madras high court dated 30 April 2008.

Till date approximately 4.41 million claims have been filed and more than 1.71 million titles have been distributed in various states with the exception 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 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 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 Tamil Nadu will gather speed and the forest dwelling scheduled tribes and the other traditional forest dwellers in the state can look forward to their forest rights being finally recognised, vested and recorded.

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