Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Bhupesh Baghel on Sunday said his government, if needed, would file a review petition to defend the tribals after their claim as forest dwellers were rejected under the Forest Rights Act of 2006 by the Supreme Court.
"In the battle for water, forest and land, we are standing shoulder to shoulder with tribal people. As per direction of Rahul Gandhi, the state government will send its lawyer to defend the forest rights in the Supreme Court on the next date of hearing. If required, the government will file a review petition," Mr Baghel tweeted.
Mr Baghel's response came a day after Congress President Rahul Gandhi wrote him a letter, seeking his urgent intervention in the top court judgement.
The court on February 13 ordered the chief secretaries of 21 states to evict those whose claims as forest dwellers have been rejected under the law. It also said the eviction should be carried out on or before July 24, the next date of hearing.
"The recent order of the Supreme Court deserves your urgent intervention. The court has directed state governments to evict tribals and other forest dwellers whose claims under the Forest Rights Act were rejected," Mr Gandhi wrote in his letter.
"The Ministry of Tribal Affairs in its status report on implementation of the Forest Rights Act highlighted that less than 45 per cent of the individual forest rights and 50 per cent of the community forest rights claims were approved in April 2018.
"Further, the ministry has pointed out that forest staff often raised frivolous objections leading to rejection," the Congress president said.
"In this backdrop, eviction based on rejected claims alone, without a proper review and appeal process, violates the due process of law. To pre-empt large-scale evictions, it would be expedient to file a review petition and take any other action you may deem fit, Mr Gandhi's letter read.
For millions of adivasis and other forest dwellers 'jal, jangal and zameen' (water, forest and land) is integral to their Right to Life guaranteed by our Constitution, Mr Gandhi said.