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An Unresolved Legal Question About Forest Rights

By: Kanchi Kohli

In January 2016, the district level authorities revoked the Community Forest Rights (CFR) granted to Ghatbarra village, located in Sarguja district of the central Indian state of Chhattisgarh, as per due process of law. The reason cited was that the exercise of these rights was coming in the way of coal mining operations in the area. Even as the final decision on a petition challenging this revocation is pending in the Bilaspur High Court, this paper seeks to examine two legal questions that arise out of the case.

First, is the cancellation of conferred forest rights legally permissible as per the Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 (FRA, 2006)? Second, can the use of forestland for mining be approved under the Forest Conservation Act (FCA), 1980, without recognizing or compensating for the pre-existing rights of the tribal communities living in and dependent on the forests?