The Forest Rights Act

Court Cases Against the Forest Rights Act

** 12/08/09: Orissa High Court follows AP High Court, removes obstacles to full implementation of Act - see "Orissa High Court"

** 04/05/09: SC again declines to stay Forest Rights Act - see "Supreme Court Cases"

** 01/05/09: AP High Court accepts State government move to complete implementation and issue final title for rights - see "AP High Court"

Clarification: No High Court has stayed the Act.  All the High Courts that have issued orders have said the Act must be implemented, though some have made issue of final title subject to orders of the Court.  See the AP, Madras, Orissa High Court case details on the right.

Forest officials and hardline conservationists have now filed a total of nine court cases in an attempt to get the Forest Rights Act or orders under it struck down as unconstitutional. All the cases basically claim the following:

  • The colonial authorities were fully sensitive to the needs of forest dwellers; the Indian Forest Act  and its sucessor, the Wildlife Protection Act, provide adequate protections. The forest bureaucracy has correctly implemented the law, and even if they haven't, all that is required is to order them to do so.  All forest dwellers are therefore "encroachers."
  • By recognising the rights of forest dwellers, the Act will encourage false claims of rights over forests and forest lands, leading to forest destruction.  The current situation, whereby such claims are settled by forest officials, should remain.
  • The gram sabha is the deciding body on rights under the Act [NB: this is untrue], but the gram sabha is an unskilled open body in which all local residents, including claimants for rights, can participate. Recognition of rights should only be decided by officials.
  • Being a later statute, this law is contrary to some parts of the Forest (Conservation) Act, the Wild Life (Protection) Act, and the Indian Forest Act, as well as some Supreme Court interim orders passed on the basis of those earlier Acts.  But the existing system of forest management, the petitioners say, should be treated as part of the Constitution and cannot be changed.

  • Click here to see some brief responses to these arguments 

    Six of the nine court cases are cut and paste jobs of each other, filed in various High Courts by retired forest officers (and in one case by an ex-zamindar).  The status of each case and a summary of any additional arguments made can be found by clicking on that case in the menu to the right.


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