Niyamgiri: Orissa moves SC, seeks time for gram sabhas

Written by Indu Bhan | Indu Bhan | New Delhi | Updated: Jul 20 2013, 11:03am hrs
The Orissa government on Friday moved the Supreme Court seeking an extension for holding gram sabhas to decide whether scheduled tribes and other other traditional forest dwellers have any religious rights over the eco-sensitive Niyamgiri hills, from where Anil Agarwal-owned Vedanta Aluminium (VAL) wants to source bauxite to feed its

$1- million alumina refinery project. VAL has a sale-purchase agreement with the Orissa Mining Corporation, which has the lease to mine bauxite from the hills.

A bench headed by Justice KS Radhakrishnan adjourned the matter by two weeks and allowed the ministry of environment and forests to respond to the state government's application.

The application filed through advocate RS Jena said that the state needed further six weeks time for inviting claims in all 12 villages for individual as well as community claims, along with cultural and religious claims. And gram sabhas may be allowed to be held within three months from the last date of receipt of fresh claims, the state government stated.

An April 18 order of the Supreme Court had directed the gram sabhas of the two districts to decide in three months issues relating to the mining project and tribals residing in the area.

Through an interim order, the apex court identified 12 hill slope villages (5 in Kalahandi and 7 in Rayagada districts), the application stated, adding that not many fresh claims have been filed before the gram sabhas within the stipulated period (six weeks from the date of the judgment) in view of the remoteness of the villages.

Accordingly, the state government has decided to issue advertisements to invite claims after complying with all formalities as per the procedure, and this would take further six weeks to complete the process, Jena said.