Commons, or Common Property Resources refers to private property for a group, rather than an individual. They have been used by communities for various purposes since time immemorial. However, as a result of encroachments by private parties and the regularisation of the same by State Governments, the rights over these lands have become difficult to define.
In 2011, the Supreme Court, in Jagpal Singh v. The State of Punjab, gave a landmark decision with respect to village common lands. The judgement recognised the importance of protecting these lands from encroachments and asked the States to ensure the speedy eviction of illegal occupants from common lands and ensure that those lands are used for the common benefit of the people.
The CPR-Namati Environmental Justice Program, with support from Duleep Matthai Nature Conservation Trust has prepared four hand-outs which highlight some of the key findings from the judgement in the context of Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Karnataka and Odisha. In doing so, it aims to give the reader an understanding of:
- What the Commons are and how they are recognised in the states;
- Which authorities are responsible for their administration;
- The key provisions of national and state level legislations pertaining to the Commons;
- The significance and implications of the judgement for the states;
- Actions taken by the states in pursuance of the Supreme Court’s judgement;
- What can be done by panchayats and concerned citizens to protect and conserve the Commons.