Chennai: Madras High Court has upheld Tamil Nadu government`s order of 2010, declaring about 3383 hectares of land in Sirumalai in Dindigul district as reserve forest.
A division Bench comprising Chief Justice RK Agrawal and Justice M Sathyanarayanan dismissed a batch of over 200 appeals from Sirumalai Farmers Association, challenging a single judge`s order, rejecting their plea to quash the February 4, 2010 Government Order.
Concurring with submissions of special government pleader (forest) MK Subramanian, the Bench said the government order and gazette notification revealed proper application of mind of the authorities before declaring the land as reserve forest and either predecessors in title or petitioners had not submitted objections/representations after issuance of proclamation.
The Bench said it was pertinent to point out that acting on a PIL in 2005, a direction was given to complete the process of declaring the reserve forest and to identify and remove encroachers. A time frame was also stipulated and government initiated action to comply with the said order, it said.
On the submission that petitioners are `other traditional forest dwellers` and so their rights are protected under Scheduled Tribes and Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Act, the Bench said it lacks merit because as per the Act, such dwellers meant any member or community who had for at least three generations prior to December 13, 2005 resided in and who depended on forest or forests land for their livelihood.
The appellants on their own admission claimed to have been in possession of the land only for one generation and so could claim any right under the Act, the court said.
The judges said the appellants had failed to substantiate their legal rights on land declared as reserve forest.
The single judge, on in-depth analysis on the factual aspects and legal position, had concluded they had failed to establish any legal or enforceable rights in getting relief and this court did not find any error or infirmity in his findings, they said.