Indigenous communities’ decisions on traditional lands and habitats to be respected, based on information provided in a language accessible to them: Supreme Court ruling a great victory for indigenous rights – Odisha

Amnesty International, 18 April 2013

India: Landmark Supreme Court ruling a great victory for indigenous rights

Today’s ruling by India’s Supreme Court that the Indigenous (Adivasi) communities will have the final decision on plans for a bauxite mine by a subsidiary of UK-based Vedanta Resources in the Niyamgiri hills of Orissa is a landmark victory in recognizing indigenous rights in India, Amnesty International said today. […]

This ruling is hugely important for the Dongria Kondh,” said G. Ananthapadmanabhan, Chief Executive of Amnesty International India.

“This ruling is a clear vindication of the protests by local communities, the findings of the extensive research carried out since 2009 by Amnesty International and the sustained campaign carried out by many organisations which exposed how the communities’ views had long been ignored,” said Ananthapadmanabhan. […]

“Authorities in India must now establish a clear and transparent process to ascertain the free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) of Indigenous communities in Niyamgiri and all other contexts where their traditional lands and habitats may be affected by state or corporate projects. The participation of women and other marginal members in these communities should be ensured in such decision-making. Also, the authorities should ensure that all information about the potential negative impact of such plans is available to them in a language accessible to them prior to decision-making. The communities’ decisions must be respected, and projects must not be allowed without agreement by the communities in their favour.” […]

The Court ruled that the gram sabhas  (assemblies consisting of all adult voters) of two villages located near the proposed mine would need to decide if the mine plans, in any way, affected their religious and cultural rights, including their right to worship, and on all individual and community claims, including fresh ones, to the areas proposed to be mined. The councils should share their decision with India’s Ministry of Environment and Forests within three months.  […]

The Court ruling stipulates that the gram sabha proceedings in Niyamgiri take place independently and completely uninfluenced, either by the project proponents or the state or central governments.

Source: India: Landmark Supreme Court ruling a great victory for indigenous rights | Amnesty International
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Date Visited: Fri May 03 2013 20:18:31 GMT+0200 (CEST)

Priscilla Jebaraj, The Hindu, New Delhi, April 18, 2013

[…] Affirming the decision-making power of the village councils of Rayagada and Kalahandi under the Forest Rights Act (FRA), the court directed these gram sabhas to “take a decision…within three months” on any claims of cultural, religious, community and individual rights that the forest dwellers of the region may have.

The Bench also made it clear that the FRA “protects a wide range of rights of forest dwellers and STs including the customary rights to use forest land as a community forest resource and not restricted merely to property rights or to areas of habitation.”

Mr. Gopalakrishnan [Campaign for Survival and Dignity] argued that “this construction of the FRA is now binding on every High Court and every Supreme Court Bench of less than three judges, as well as on the government.” It could also throw a shadow on recent guidelines drafted by the Prime Minister’s office, which seemed to hold that, under the FRA, gram sabha consent was not mandatory, and that its input was only required in some cases because forest dwellers should be treated “humanely” and to ensure public “consultation.”

Source: Court directs gram sabhas to take a call on Vedanta’s mining project – The Hindu
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Date Visited: Fri May 03 2013 20:43:24 GMT+0200 (CEST)

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