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The Supreme Court Monday declined to interfere with a Kerala High Court order asking the state police to clear the encroachment of government land by tribals within four weeks.

The vacation bench of judges Deepak Verma and K.S. Radhakrishnan did not entertain the state government’s plea that the high court order infringed upon police’s operational freedom to deal with a special situation, suggesting the government try to at least partially implement the order.

Thereafter, the state government could approach the high court seeking more time to clear the encroachment of its land by the adivasis (tribals), the bench advised.

Appearing for the Kerala government, senior counsel Jaideep Gupta told the court that removing thousands of Adivasi encroachers was not an easy task, and earlier attempts to do so resulted in violent incidents.

He contended that in such a situation the operational freedom of police could not be curtailed, adding that this freedom has been upheld by an apex court verdict also.

When Gupta pressed this point, Justice Verma said that this stage (to consider operational freedom of police) has not come yet. The counsel said that time restriction could only be imposed after the lapse of ‘reasonable time’ without action being taken.

When Justice Radhakrishnan said that it was a ‘case of rehabilitation’, Gupta agreed and said that it took long in relocating the people.

When counsels Ranjit Kumar and Rajiv Dhawan, appearing for the respondent M.V.Sreyamskumar and others, wanted to know how many encroachers were there, Justice Verma said that ‘even the state government may not be aware of how many encroachers are there’.

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