IRAC demands withdrawal of the controversial Draft Lakshadweep Development Authority Regulation 2021

On 25 May 2021, the Indigenous Rights Advocacy Centre (IRAC) has submitted its comments on the Draft Lakshadweep Development Authority Regulation 2021 (“LDAR 2021”) and requested the Administrator to withdraw the controversial draft in the interest of the natives of the islands.

The draft threatens the existing land ownership and usage in Lakshadweep by giving sweeping, arbitrary, unchecked powers to the Government (who is the Administrator as per the LDAR 2021) and all its bodies to directly interfere with an islander’s right to possess and retain their property. As the LDAR allows unbridled power to acquire any land, it will invariably lead to forcible evictions of the indigenous peoples.

According to the 2011 Census, Lakshadweep has a population of 64,429 persons. More than 93% of the populations are indigenous and the entire indigenous population has been classified as Scheduled Tribes because of their economic and social backwardness. According to the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes list (modification orders), 1956, the inhabitants of Lakshadweep who and both of whose parents were born in these islands are treated as Scheduled Tribes.

In its comments, IRAC submitted that the LDAR 2021 is totally illegal, unconstitutional and undemocratic in many respects and harmful to the interests of the local tribal communities.

IRAC’s detailed submissions included the following:

  1. That the so called development projects will have devastating effects on the survival of the indigenous peoples and adversely affect the fragile ecosystem and is in directly contravenes national and international legal safeguards and standards, including  Article 26  of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples  (UNDRIPS) which states that “Indigenous peoples have the right to the lands, territories and resources which they have traditionally owned, occupied or otherwise used or acquired,” and it directs states to give legal recognition to these territories.
  • That the proposed legislation vests such powers with the authority to prepare comprehensive development plans for any area and relocate people without their consent and against their will.  It provides for forcible eviction, puts the onus on the owner to develop his holding as per the plan prepared by the authority as also to heavily penalise them in the event of non-compliance. Therefore LDAR 2021 shall lead to massive displacement of the indigenous peoples, apart from forcibly alienation of land of the indigenous peoples, and destructing their way of life.
  • That the provision of the Draft empowers the authorities to exercise extraordinary powers and is therefore draconian and unconstitutional. It gives powers to any officer or any person authorised by Government to enter and search into any property at any time without warrant or reason or the consent of the owner of the property. This is serious breach of privacy under Article 21 of the Constitution and other rights of the land owners.
  • That the draft LDAR 2021 is illegal because Section 130 provides that “the provisions of this Regulation, the rules and regulations made thereunder shall have effect notwithstanding anything inconsistent herewith contained in any other law for the time being in force.” This provision is illegal because no Regulation can override laws passed by the Parliament of India.
  • Section 117 imposes a bar on legal proceedings against the Government, Planning and Development Authority or any of its officers or persons duly appointed or authorised by it in respect of anything in good faith done or purporting to be done under the provisions of this Regulation or the rules framed thereunder. The draft proposal by removing the power to legal recourse is a direct assault on the Constitutional remedies envisaged in our Indian Constitution under Article 32.

On 25 May 2021, the Indigenous Rights Advocacy Centre (IRAC) has submitted its comments on the Draft Lakshadweep Development Authority Regulation 2021 (“LDAR 2021”) and requested the Administrator to withdraw the controversial draft in the interest of the natives of the islands.

The draft threatens the existing land ownership and usage in Lakshadweep by giving sweeping, arbitrary, unchecked powers to the Government (who is the Administrator as per the LDAR 2021) and all its bodies to directly interfere with an islander’s right to possess and retain their property. As the LDAR allows unbridled power to acquire any land, it will invariably lead to forcible evictions of the indigenous peoples.

According to the 2011 Census, Lakshadweep has a population of 64,429 persons. More than 93% of the populations are indigenous and the entire indigenous population has been classified as Scheduled Tribes because of their economic and social backwardness. According to the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes list (modification orders), 1956, the inhabitants of Lakshadweep who and both of whose parents were born in these islands are treated as Scheduled Tribes.

In its comments, IRAC submitted that the LDAR 2021 is totally illegal, unconstitutional and undemocratic in many respects and harmful to the interests of the local tribal communities.

IRAC’s detailed submissions included the following:

  1. That the so called development projects will have devastating effects on the survival of the indigenous peoples and adversely affect the fragile ecosystem and is in directly contravenes national and international legal safeguards and standards, including  Article 26  of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples  (UNDRIPS) which states that “Indigenous peoples have the right to the lands, territories and resources which they have traditionally owned, occupied or otherwise used or acquired,” and it directs states to give legal recognition to these territories.
  • That the proposed legislation vests such powers with the authority to prepare comprehensive development plans for any area and relocate people without their consent and against their will.  It provides for forcible eviction, puts the onus on the owner to develop his holding as per the plan prepared by the authority as also to heavily penalise them in the event of non-compliance. Therefore LDAR 2021 shall lead to massive displacement of the indigenous peoples, apart from forcibly alienation of land of the indigenous peoples, and destructing their way of life.
  • That the provision of the Draft empowers the authorities to exercise extraordinary powers and is therefore draconian and unconstitutional. It gives powers to any officer or any person authorised by Government to enter and search into any property at any time without warrant or reason or the consent of the owner of the property. This is serious breach of privacy under Article 21 of the Constitution and other rights of the land owners.
  • That the draft LDAR 2021 is illegal because Section 130 provides that “the provisions of this Regulation, the rules and regulations made thereunder shall have effect notwithstanding anything inconsistent herewith contained in any other law for the time being in force.” This provision is illegal because no Regulation can override laws passed by the Parliament of India.
  • Section 117 imposes a bar on legal proceedings against the Government, Planning and Development Authority or any of its officers or persons duly appointed or authorised by it in respect of anything in good faith done or purporting to be done under the provisions of this Regulation or the rules framed thereunder. The draft proposal by removing the power to legal recourse is a direct assault on the Constitutional remedies envisaged in our Indian Constitution under Article 32.

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