India's Supreme Court has ordered the eviction of more than 1 million indigenous people and others who live in forests after the federal government failed to defend a law aimed at protecting their rights.

The top court's order, dated Feb. 13 and delivered in written form on Wednesday, was in response to a petition against the Forest Rights Act (FRA) of 2006, filed by some environmental groups who said the law impeded conservation efforts.

Under the landmark Forest Rights Act, which gave back to traditional forest dwellers the right to access and manage forest lands and resources within village boundaries, at least 150 million people could have had their rights recognized to about 40 million hectares (154,000 square miles) of forest land. But the law states that individual and community claims have to be settled before activity can be carried out on those lands.