NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court observed Tuesday that nine states have not followed the procedure in rejecting the claims of tribals over the forest land and said the matter related to eviction of around 11.8 lakh alleged illegal forest dwellers is "important".
A bench comprising Justices Arun Mishra, M R Shah and B R Gavai asked several states, which have not filed affidavits giving details including on the procedure adopted in rejecting the claims, to file their responses by September 6.
"Nine states say they have not followed the procedure. We would like to be addressed first on this. It is an important matter," the bench observed and posted the case for hearing on September 12.
The apex court had earlier stayed its February 13 order directing 21 states to evict 11.8 lakh illegal forest dwellers whose claims over the forest land have been rejected by the authorities.
During the hearing, senior counsel Shyam Divan, appearing for one of the petitioners, referred to the earlier orders passed in the matter and said the apex court had asked the Forest Survey of India to make a satellite survey and place on record the encroachment positions.
Additional Solicitor General A N S Nadkarni told the court that the Forest Survey of India has received details from four states only.
Solicitor General Tushar Mehta, appearing for the Centre, told the court that some of the states have not yet filed affidavits giving details, including procedure adopted for rejecting claims of the tribals.
The bench said that it would like to hear arguments on what procedure should be laid down for dealing with the claim of tribals over forest land.
"Let us have the feedback from every state," the bench observed.
Mehta told the court that last opportunity should be given to the states to place on record the procedure adopted by them in rejecting the claims.
The bench, while posting the matter for hearing next month, said it want to have the "clear picture" first and then proceed with the case.
The top court had earlier asked the Centre as to why it was in "slumber" for such a long time and approached it only after the directions were passed on February 13.
The Centre had rushed to the top court for modification of the order saying the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 was a "beneficial" legislation and should be construed liberally to help "extremely poor and illiterate people" who are not well informed of their rights and procedure under the law.
The apex court had directed that authorities would also examine whether the state-level monitoring committee which ensure that no tribal is displaced except in compliance with the formalities under the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 were involved in the process when the claims were rejected.
It had asserted that in no circumstance the forest land or the customary right of the tribals be encroached by "mighty people".
The top court is dealing with a batch of petitions on the issue that were filed in the apex court over a period since 2006.