Article 14 of the Constitution entitles all Indian citizens to all the laws that may benefit them – including the Compensatory Afforestation Act 2016.
By Ritwick Dutta, The Wire
Read the entire article at The Wire.
So while the Forest Conservation Act 1980 states that no forest land can be used for non-forest purposes without the Centre’s prior approval, the CA Act allows violators to legalise their illegality by undertaking plantations and making payments.
Why is the benefit of penal compensatory afforestation not available to Khori Gaon’s residents? After all, they are at best guilty of using forest land for non-forest purposes. Right to equality under Article 14 requires that the state not treat the two categories of violators differently: the residents have an equal right to recourse through the CA Act.
And even when such a classification is to be made between different kinds of violators, it must be to the benefit of those who are disadvantaged. The second limb of Article 14 – “equal protection of laws” – is relevant. If they are denied this recourse, then the CA Act itself could violate the right to equality.
There needs to be an effective and implementable solution to the Khori Gaon issue. We can’t solve the problem through academic discussions or vitriol about how the forest department is a ‘colonial institution’ that is out to declare all areas as ‘forest’ with the aim of evicting people.