National Commission for Scheduled Tribes is an Indian constitutional body which was established through Constitution (89th Amendment) Act, 2003 on 19th February' 2004 by amending article 338 of the constitution and inserting a new article 338 A.
The policy makers of the Constitution realized that some communities in the nation are backward and suffering from extreme social, educational and economic backwardness due to ancient practice of untouchability and certain others on account of the primeval agricultural practices, lack of infrastructure facilities and geographical separation. These downgraded group need special consideration for protection of their interests and for their quicker socio-economic development. These communities were reported as scheduled Tribes as per provisions contained in Clause 1 of Articles 341 and 342 of the Constitution respectively.
In order to provide safeguards against the mistreatment of SCs & STs and to promote and protect their social, educational, economic and cultural interests, special provisions were made in the Constitution. Due to their social disability and economic backwardness, they were totally handicapped in getting reasonable share in elected offices, government jobs and educational institutions and, therefore, it was considered essential to follow a policy of reservations in their favour to guarantee their impartial participation in governance. For effective implementation of various safeguards provided in the Constitution for the SCs & STs and various other protective legislations, the Constitution provided for appointment of a Special Officer under Article 338 of the Constitution. The Special Officer who was designated as Commissioner for SCs & STs was assigned the duty to investigate all matters relating to the safeguards for SCs and STs in various statutes and to report to the President upon the working of these protections.
National Commission for Scheduled Tribes was formed on the 89th Amendment of the Constitution coming into force from 19 February 2004, under Article 338A on bifurcation of former National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes to supervise the implementation of various safeguards provided to Scheduled Tribes under the Constitution. By this amendment, the erstwhile National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes was replaced by two separate Commissions specifically:
For effective functioning of the office of the Commissioner for SCs & STs in accordance with the needs of the time, 17 regional offices of the Commissioner were established in different parts of the country, which were regulated by Assistant Commissioners for SCs & STs who were, in July, 1965 re-designated as Deputy Commissioners. In June, 1967, the 17 Regional Offices were re-organized into five Zonal Offices and placed under the control of a newly formed Directorate General of Backward Classes Welfare in the Department of Social Welfare. Each Zonal Offices was headed by a Zonal Director, Backward Classes Welfare (a newly created post) and the post of Deputy Commissioner for SCs & STs was re-designated as Deputy Director, Backward Classes Welfare and placed under the control of a Zonal Director located at Chandigarh (Northern Zone), Bhopal (Central Zone), Patna (Eastern Zone), Baroda (Western Zone) and Madras (Southern Zone).
The term of all the Members of the Commission is three years from the date of assumption of charge.
While examining the matters referred to in sub-clause (a) to inquire into any complaint referred to in sub-clause (b) of clause 5, the Commission have all the powers of a Civil Court trying a suit and in particular in respect of the following matters:
Consultation by the Union and State Governments with the Commission:
According to clause 9 of Article 338A of the Constitution, Union and every State Government shall consult the Commission on all major policy matters affecting Scheduled Tribes.
While investigating matters relating to the safeguards, the Commission provide under the Constitution monitors the implementation and working of safeguards which include:
The functioning of the Commission:
The National Commission for Scheduled Tribes operates from its Head office at New Delhi and from the State Offices of the Commission located in six States.
There are four Wings at Hqrs.
There are six State Offices of the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes which work efficiently with the Commission. They closely monitor on the formulation of policy and issue of guidelines relating to the welfare of Scheduled Tribes in the States/UTs and keep the Commission's Headquarters informed about the development periodically. Policy decisions taken by any State Government/UT Administration affecting the interests of the Scheduled Tribes are brought to the notice of the concerned authorities for necessary action.
To summarize, National Commission for scheduled Tribes was set up with the major aim to protect the weaker section of society. Commissioner for STs was allocated the duty to examine all matters relating to the safeguards for STs in various statutes and to report to the President upon the working of these protections.