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Samatha vs State of Andhra Pradesh (1997)

Samatha vs State of Andhra Pradesh (1997)

Introduction

  • Supreme Court decision regarding the leasing of tribal lands for mining and industrial purposes to non-tribal persons.
  • Social action group appealed a high court ruling for the State of Andhra Pradesh on behalf of the affected tribal persons and argued that the leasing of tribal lands for mining purposes violated the Fifth Schedule of the Indian Constitution.

Background

  • A writ petition was filed by Samatha, a social action group working for the rights of tribals in the High Court of Andhra Pradesh in 1993 on the ground that the government was also a ‘person’ and hence does not have the power to grant lease in a scheduled area to non tribals for mining purpose.
  • The petition was rejected by the High Court and Samatha subsequently appealed to the Supreme Court of India.

Judgement | Samatha vs State of Andhra Pradesh (1997) 

  • The Supreme Court of India reversed the judgment of the High Court and held that government, tribal, and forested lands in the scheduled areas cannot be leased to non-tribal persons or private companies for mining purposes.
  • The Supreme Court reasoned that all land in the scheduled areas, regardless of title, cannot be leased out because of the importance of agriculture as the source of livelihood for tribal persons.
  • Paragraph 5(2) of the Fifth Schedule of the Indian Constitution preserved these lands to protect tribal persons’ economic empowerment, economic justice, social status, and dignity.
  • The transfer of lands in the scheduled areas can be allowed only for peace and good governance of the land.
  • Additionally, the Supreme Court held that mining activity in scheduled areas can only be operated by the State Mineral Development Corporation or by a cooperative of tribal persons with at least 20% of profits from these activities going towards infrastructure and other social services such as schools, hospitals, and sanitation.
  • All other leases granted to non-tribal persons are cancelled and void for violation of the Fifth Schedule of the Indian Constitution.

Significance of the Case | Samatha vs State of Andhra Pradesh (1997)   

  • This case is important for acting as a check and restraint to state power from the exploitation of resources on tribal lands for commercial purposes.  The Supreme Court also recognized the role of agriculture to tribal persons’ livelihoods.

 

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