18 FEB, 2013, 04.47AM IST, ET BUREAU
OMC, Sterlite and the Odisha government had accused the MoEF of indulging in doublespeak on the FRA to deny clearance only to OMC’s mining plans and asked the court to direct it to explain whether no forest land can ever be diverted for development under FRA or they were only making an exception for Vedanta.
In a reply affidavit, the MoEF defended its refusal to deny forest clearance to 26% joint venture partner OMC’s plans to mine the hills, but left scope for the Act to be diluted in other cases, possibly to take care of development considerations raised by the PMO, experts suggested. The ministry was asked to state whether the FRA did not envisage any diversion of forest land for development activities or whether it could be permitted under some terms. In its affidavit, the ministry said eligible forest dwellers cannot be evicted “till the process of recognition and vesting of individual and community forest rights under the Act is complete.” Even in areas where rights have been recognized or are “likely to be recognised” diversion of forest land should be “avoided” and that it should be “the last resort after examination of alternatives.”
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