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Governor modifies law on forest rights

Topics Covered: Parliament and State Legislatures – structure, functioning, conduct of business, powers & privileges and issues arising out of these.

Governor modifies law on forest rights

What to study?

For Prelims: 5th Schedule area, powers of governors.

For Mains: Significance of this schedule, challenges and ways to address them.

 Context: Maharashtra Governor Bhagat Singh Koshyari has modified the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006, allowing rightful claimants of forest rights to appeal against decisions of the district level committee (DLC).

The Governor has modified Section 6 of the Act, in its application to Scheduled Area of the State of Maharashtra, in exercise of the powers conferred on him by Schedule V of the Constitution.

 Significance:

  • The notification is important to provide justice to tribals whose ‘individual or community forest right’ has been rejected by the DLC, constituted under the Forest Rights Act (FRA).
  • The notification applies to areas covered in the Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act in the State and allows appeal provision against the DLC’s decision.
  • The notification states that divisional level committees under the chairmanship of divisional commissioners have been constituted to hear the appeals against the DLC’s decisions. In the case of an order passed by the DLC before commencement of the notification, the appeal needs to be made within six months. However, if an order has been passed after commencement of the notification, the application has to be made within 90 days.

Criticisms:

Activists, however, are concerned that this will lead to further delays in implementation of forest laws. They say the notification is a double-edged sword. A tribal farmer will find it difficult to go to the district headquarters. They fear this committee will further delay implementation of FRA. Delay means denial of justice and increased scope for fake claims.

What is 5th schedule?

The Fifth Schedule of the Constitution deals with the administration and control of Scheduled Areas as well as of Scheduled Tribes residing in any State other than the States of Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram.

Special Provisions for Fifth Schedule Areas:

  1. The Governor of each State having Scheduled Areas (SA) shall annually, or whenever so required by the President, make a report to the President regarding the administration of Scheduled Areas in that State.
  2. The Union Government shall have executive powers to give directions to the States as to the administration of the Scheduled Areas.
  3. Para 4 of the Fifth Schedule provides for establishment of a Tribes Advisory Council (TAC) in any State having Scheduled Areas.
  4. Composition: Consisting of not more than twenty members of whom, three-fourths shall be the representatives of the Scheduled Tribes in the Legislative Assembly of the State. If the number of representatives of the STs in the Legislative Assembly of the State is less than the number of seats in the TAC to be filled by such representatives, the remaining seats shall be filled by other members of those Tribes.
  5. Functions: The TAC shall advise on such matters pertaining to the welfare and the advancement of the STs in the State as may be referred to them by the Governor.

The Governor may make rules prescribing or regulating:

  1. The number of members of the Council, the mode of their appointment and the appointment of the Chairman of the Council and of the officers and servants thereof, the conduct of its meetings and its procedure in general.
  2. The Governor may, by public notification, direct that any particular Act of Parliament or of the Legislature of the State shall or shall not apply to a SA or any part thereof in the State, subject to such exceptions and modifications, as specified.
  3. The Governor may make regulations for the peace and good government of any area in the State which is for the time being a SA. Such regulations may prohibit or restrict the transfer of land by or among members of the Scheduled tribes in such area; regulate the allotment of land to members of the STs in such area.
  4. In making such regulations, the Governor may repeal or amend any Act of Parliament or of Legislature of the State or any existing law after obtaining assent of the President.

 InstaThink:

Prelims Link:

  1. Difference between 5th and 6th schedule of Indian Constitution.
  2. Powers of governor under 5th
  3. Who can include or exclude areas under 5th
  4. What are scheduled areas?
  5. Forest Rights Act- key provisions.
  6. TAC- composition and functions.

 Sources: the Hindu.