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Manipur HC restraints govt’s eviction order of Wangoo traditional forest dwellers

The Biren Singh-led state government has been conducting widespread eviction drives across the state over the last few months to clear plots of government land and reserved forests of alleged encroachment.

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Imphal: The Manipur High Court Monday restrained the state government from evicting 441 people from Thongam Mondum Reserved Forest area at Wangoo under Kakching district.

The Divisional Forest Officer, Thoubal Forest Division had on 16 May 2022 served a show cause notice to the concerned residents directing them to give their explanation within seven days with necessary documents, failing which they will initiate the eviction process immediately. 

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The Biren Singh-led state government has been conducting widespread eviction drives across the state over the last few months to clear plots of government land and reserved forests of alleged encroachment.

Later, the villagers moved the High Court against the eviction order.

A single bench of Justice Ahanthem Bimol Singh directed the government “pending consideration and disposal of the said representation not to initiate any eviction process against the petitioners and other similarly situated persons (numbering 441) who are claiming the status of Other Traditional Forest Dwellers (OTFDs) of Wangoo Gram Panchayat, Kakching District Manipur without leave of this court.” 

Advocate N Bupenda Meitei, appearing for the petitioners, argued that the villagers had already submitted a representation to the concerned authorities claiming for providing the status of OTFDs but the said representation has not yet been considered by the authorities. 

Bupenda further argued that without considering and disposing of the said representation under relevant Forest Rights Act, 2006 and Rules the authorities have initiated the eviction process in a very arbitrary manner. 

The advocate pleaded the court to pass an interim order restraining the authorities from evicting the petitioners from their land presently possessed by them.

Lenin Hijam, Advocate General and  Kh Samarjit, Assistant Solicitor General,  told the bench that the writ petition can be disposed of by issuing an innocuous direction to the concerned  authorities of the government to consider the representation dated 16 June 2022 submitted by the petitioners and to dispose of the same by issuing a speaking order within a period of two months and that the pending consideration and disposal of the said representation, no eviction process will be initiated against the petitioners. 

The court further directed the government to consider the said representation dated 16 June 2022 submitted by the petitioner and dispose of the same by issuing a speaking order within a period of two months from the date of receipt of a copy of the order. 

With the above directions, the present writ petition is disposed of, the court ruled. 

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