THE Mizoram Government has revoked the Scheduled Tribe & Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, 2006 (Forest Rights Act) on the grounds that it directly encroached on the special status the state enjoyed under Article 371 (G) of the Constitution of India.
The resolution, moved on November 19, 2019, by the Social Welfare Minister Dr K Beichhua and passed unanimously, said the Forest Rights Act, 2006 challenged Mizo customary laws and practices, though activists and experts are apprehensive that the state government will turn over the forest land under the North-East Industrial and Investment Promotion Policy.
With the abrogation of the Forest Rights Act, 2006, forest lands in Mizoram will remain with the traditional communities holding ownership and the state forest department.
In August 2019, the state of Mizoram received Rs 212.98 crore for compensatory afforestation under the Compensatory Afforestation Fund Management and Planning Authority.
Article 371 (G)
Article 371(G) of the Constitution gives special status to the state of Mizoram and provides that the Parliament cannot decide on the matters of religious and social practices of the Mizos, civil and criminal law of the land, land ownership transfer, and customary law procedure without the consent of the state assembly. Article 371 (G) states:
“Notwithstanding anything in this Constitution,
(a) no Act of President in respect of
i. religious or social practices of the Mizos,
ii. Mizo customary law and procedure,
iii. administration of civil and criminal justice involving decisions according to Mizo customary law,
iv. ownership and transfer of land, shall apply to the State of Mizoram unless the Legislative Assembly of the State of Mizoram by a resolution so decides: Provided that nothing in this clause shall apply to any Central Act in force in the union territory of Mizoram immediately before the commencement of the Constitution (Fifty third Amendment) Act, 1986;
(b) the Legislative Assembly of the State of Mizoram shall consist of not less than forty members”
Forests Rights in Mizoram
As per the latest report of the Forest Survey of India, Mizoram in the list of 15 states and union territories that have above 33 percent of its geographical area under forest cover. With 86.27 percent forest cover with respect to its total geographical area, Mizoram is among the “tribal districts” of India.
The Forest Rights Act, 1927 – an Act to consolidate the laws relating to forests, the transit of forest produce and the duty leviable on timber and other forest-produce – was not enforced on the state of Mizoram, governed as it was by the Mizoram Forest Act, 1955 which was enacted in accordance with Mizo customary practices and laws and the needs of the local communities. The Mizoram Forest Act, 1955 came into force on January 1, 1956, and provides for the management of any forest not being a reserved forest.
The Forest Rights Act, 2006 was enacted to recognize the rights of forest land or tribal people traditionally living in jungles. The Forest Rights Act, 2006 has two primary objectives:
- Grants legal recognition to the rights of traditional forest-dwelling communities, partially correcting the injustice caused by the forest law
- Makes a beginning towards giving communities and the public a voice in forest and wildlife conservation
According to the Ministry of Tribal Affairs’ monthly progress report on the Forest Rights Act, the state of Mizoram has not entertained any claims under the law even though the Mizoram Assembly had approved the Forest Rights Act, 2006 in October 2009.