Sunday, April 14, 2024

Lawyers, Researchers urge President to withdraw Draft Lakshadweep Development Authority Regulation 2021

More than 58 lawyers and researchers have written a letter to President Ram Nath Kovind with the request to withdraw the draft Lakshadweep Development Authority Regulation 2021 (LDAR) in the interest and well-being of the citizens of islands.

Lakshadweep newly-appointed administrator and ‘BJP’s man’ Praful K Patel’s recent decisions and draconian regulations have caused discontent in the Muslim-majority islands.

“The draft LDAR is disassociated from the social, cultural, economic and environmental realities of the Lakshadweep islands. We find that the draft LDAR not only fails to address its stated purposes of good governance, the conservation and promotion of public health, safety and general welfare of the people, but rather goes against these and will facilitate land grab and ecological destruction on these special islands,” read the letter.

Recently, the Kerala High Court dismissed a PIL challenging the LDAR observing that they were still under active consideration by the Administrator, and hence the examination of their legality is completely premature.

The letter dated on 26 June puts forth a three-point list of concerns arising from the draft LDAR:

(1) violation of a fundamental rights guaranteed under Article 14 & 21 of the Constitution and principles of natural justice

“Draft LDAR violates Fundamental Rights guaranteed to citizens under article 14 and 21 of constitution. The livelihood of islanders is directly dependent on the health of the lagoon and reef ecosystems. The procedural lapses and oversight in promulgation of the draft LDAR violates established principles of natural justice. The provisions in the LDAR are also in contravention of legal principles of reasonableness and non arbitrariness. The land acquisitions provisions proposed by the draft LDAR goes against the spirit of fairness, transparency and livelihood rehabilitation mandated as per Right to Fair Compensation and Transparency in Land Acquisition, Rehabilitation and Resettlement Act, 2013,” the letter states.

2) ignorance to customary laws of the island and violation of recommendations of the Parliamentary Standing Committee (Report no 231)

“The proposed new authorities and their areas of jurisdiction restrict local community participation. A separate planning authority is redundant and supersedes the powers of the democratically elected Lakshadweep panchayats. The draft LDAR further centralises control over the ownership and use of land in Lakshadweep ignoring the customary laws and legal pluralism that shape the governance of land in the islands. Additionally, the draft LDAR 2021 prima facie violates recommendations of the Parliamentary Standing Committee (Report no 231 presented on 15.03.2021) by not consulting the elected representatives or the Member of Parliament from Lakshadweep in matters of planning and development.”

(3) overriding the Integrated Island Management Plans (IIMPs) prepared under orders of the Supreme Court and recommendations of the Justice Raveendran Commission.

“The Hon’ble Supreme Court appointed Justice Raveendran commission had recommended that “Considering the fragile ecosystem, all forms of development by Government or otherwise (except any guarded development for carefully predetermined operational constructions), shall uniformly adhere to the IIMP”. Subsequently, the Integrated Island Management Plans (IIMPs) were prepared by scientific bodies and approved and notified by the Ministry of Forest, Environment and Climate Change (MoEF&CC) vide order No.19011/16/91-IA.III dated 23-10-2015. The Draft LDAR ignores and overrides the IIMPs prepared under orders of the Hon’ble Supreme Court,” read the letter.

The lawyers and researchers have requested the President of India to ensure the implementation of the recommendations of the Supreme Court-appointed Justice Raveendran Committee for the sustainable development of the islands.

“As a collective of researchers and lawyers working to secure livelihood security and sustainable development for India’s communities, we respectfully request you to intervene to ask for the withdrawal of this draft law, through your constitutional powers and duties to ensure peace, progress and good governance for Lakshadweep”, the letter concludes.


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