Forests, Property, Constitutional, Taxation, Contract, Land Tenure, Standing, Protected Areas, Polluter Pays, Prevention
A writ petition was filed by Samatha, a social action group working for the rights of tribals in the High Court of Andhra Pradesh in 1993 on the ground that the government was also a 'person' and hence does not have the power to grant lease in a scheduled area to non tribals for mining purpose. The A.P. High Court dismissed the writ petition. Then a Special Leave Petition was filed before the Supreme Court where by full bench judgement Court decided in favour of the tribals and held that Government lands, forest lands and tribal lands in the scheduled area cannot be leased out to non tribals or to private industries. The issue which started as non settlement of lands in reserve forest enclosures in Borra Panchayat was addressed by the bench by directing the State Government to immediately issue title deeds to tribals in occupation of these lands and ruled that government has no right to grant mining leases in these enclosure lands belonging to tribal people. Government cannot lease out lands in schedule areas for mining operations to non tribals as it in contravention of the Fifth Schedule of the Constitution; Mining activity in scheduled area can be taken up only by Andhra Pradesh State Mineral Development Corporation or a cooperative of tribals and that too if they are in compliance with the Forest (Conservation) Act 1980 and the Environment (Protection) Act 1986. The Court recognised the 73rd Constitution Amendment Act and the Andhra Pradesh Panchayat Raj (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act by stating that the Gram Sabhas shall be competent to safeguard and preserve community resources and thereby reiterated the need to give the right of self governance to tribals.The Court also felt that it would be appropriate to constitute a conference of chief ministers and concerned union ministers to take a policy decision so as to bring about a suitable enactment for a Consistent scheme throughout the country in respect of tribal lands and exploitation of mineral wealth. The State Government was, therefore, directed to stop all industries from mining operations. The Court opined that since the Executive is enjoined to protect social, economic and educational interests of the tribals, when the state leases out the lands in the scheduled areas to the non tribals or industries for exploitation of mineral resource, it transmits the above correlative constitutional duties and obligation to those who undertake to exploit the natural resources. The Court directed, that at least 20% of the net profits should be set apart as a permanent fund as part of industrial/business activity for establishment and maintenance of water resources, schools, hospitals, sanitation and transport facilities by laying roads, etc. This 20% allocation would not include the expenditure for reforestation and maintenance of the ecology