New Delhi: The Supreme Court has ordered the eviction of nearly 10 lakh tribal families from forest areas in 17 states, after turning down their claims of right to live in forestland, under the Forest Rights Act.

A Business Standard report on Wednesday read that nearly 11,27,446 tribal and other forest-dwelling households’ claims have been rejected by the Supreme Court.

The apex court’s order comes after it heard a PIL, challenging the validity of the Forest Rights Act 2006, on February 13. The petitioners had demanded that those whose claims to live in forests were rejected under the new law should be evicted.

According to a report in Scroll.in, the law gave traditional forest dwellers their right to access, manage and govern forest lands and its resources within village boundaries- which were earlier controlled by the forest department. It also made the gram sabha, the statutory body for managing forestlands and protecting them. It laid down that no activity should be carried out in these forests until individuals and community claims over them have been settled.

Now, the court has ordered that the evictions should be carried out by July 12 and has directed the Dehradun-based Forest Survey of India to submit a satellite-image based report on the encroachments removed.

The top court in its written order on February 20 said, “In case the eviction is not carried out, as aforesaid, the matter would be viewed seriously by this court.” The court also asked the states to explain why no evictions were carried out earlier despite rejection of claims.

The Forest Rights Act 2006 has long been a contentious issue concerning both wildlife activists and pro-tribal groups and NGOs. The former believes that extending rights over forest to people living in it will eventually lead to the degradation and exploitation of the forestland. While, the pro-tribal NGOs say that deficiencies in the law will further cause trouble for adivasis.