What are the major issues around land rights in areas governed by Fifth and Sixth Schedule of the Indian Constitution? Discuss with suitable examples.

Published: May 10, 2017

As per Article 244(1) of the Constitution of India, the Fifth Schedule to the Constitution deals with the administration and control of the scheduled areas and schedule tribes of India. It provides for the following:

  • It extends the executive power of the concerned states over the Scheduled areas;
  • It also extends the executive power of the Union to advising states over the administration of the concerned areas;
  • Tribes Advisory Council to be set up in states having a Tribal Advisory Council; and
  • The Governor, in order to maintain peace and good governance can make the following regulations with respect to land:
    • Prohibiting or restricting the transfer by or among members of a Scheduled Tribe
    • Allotment of land to members of the Scheduled Tribe

Sixth Schedule
It deals with the administration of autonomous districts of Assam, Mizoram, Tripura and Meghalaya. The District Councils are formed which have the power of making laws for welfare of the districts.
Some of the recent issues with respect to land rights are as follows:

  • Displacement from land for mining-The Kondhs of Odisha have recently voted against bauxite mining in the Niyamgiri hills as it would result in their loss of land and natural resources. Although it led to international investment arbitration, the government is nonetheless responsible to maintain the tribes. In the case of Samatha v State of AP and Ors. (1997) it was clearly held by the Supreme Court the transfer of tribal land to private parties for mining was null and void under the Fifth Schedule.
  • The case of Manipur- In the midst of the recent unrests in Manipur, the issue of discriminatory land reforms regulations has also come up. The Manipur Land Reforms Regulations provide for ownership of landed property by the Hill tribes but does not allow the Valley people to do so. This has given impetus to the Meitsis of the region to lead their movement and claim a separate Scheduled Tribe status under the Fifth Schedule.

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