Judgment of the Supreme Court on whether the rights of forest dwelling communities to be heard by the forest officer is limited to certain forest communities, 05/07/2023

  • 05/07/2023

Judgment of the Supreme Court in the matter of Hari Prakash Shukla & Others Vs Prakhar Mishra & Others.

The Supreme Court (SC), July 5, 2023 said that the right of the forest inhabitants for claims to be heard by the forest officer is not limited to certain recognised forest communities.

"To enjoy possession of any land notified under Section 4 of the Forest Act is not only limited to Adivasi communities and other forest dwelling communities, but is also based on proof of residence, date of original possession, etc. If the right to inhabit the said lands is not restricted only to certain communities, how can the right to be heard on such claims be restricted to the same," said the bench of Justices Krishna Murari and Ahsanuddin Amanullah.

The SC set aside the order passed by the High Court of Allahabad dated February 4, 2013. The appeals were filed against the order and judgment of the High Court of Allahabad, February 4, 2013. The appellants are the bhoomidars of the subject land and are in possession of the same. The said lands, as per the appellants, is being used by them for agricultural purposes since a permanent lease was executed in their favour by the then zamindar in the year 1952. It is to be noted that part of the subject land, including the land in possession of the appellants, was declared as reserved forest, and the other part of the said land was subject to a notification under Section 4 of the Forest Act for declaration as reserved forest. Such a declaration of the said land initiated an eviction drive of the local inhabitants, and against this, on the basis of a letter received from Banwasi Seva Ashram, a writ petition was instituted in the SC regarding the claim of the local inhabitants.

The Supreme Court vide order, November 20, 1986 directed the formation of a high powered for the purpose of adjudicating upon the claims of persons over the said disputed land, and subsequently, further directed the claims to be heard by Forest Settlement Officer.

The forest settlement officer held that the said land has been in possession of the appellants "even prior to 1385 Fasli and thus, have a rightful claim over the said land"

The forest department filed a writ petition in the High Court of Allahabad and vide February 4, 2013 the High Court directed the eviction of the appellants.