Statutory Institutions / Commissions: National Commission for scheduled Tribes
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:
- The National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC).
- The National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST).
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 First commission constituted on 2004 with Kunwar singh as the chairperson.
- The second commission constituted on 2007 with Urmila Singh as the Chairperson.
- The third Commission constituted on 2010 with Rameshwar Oraon as the Chairperson.
The Commission has following composition:
- Three full-time Members (including one lady Member)
The term of all the Members of the Commission is three years from the date of assumption of charge.
The following are the functions of the commission:
- To examine and monitor all matters relating to the protections provided for the Scheduled Tribes under the Constitution or under any other law for the time being in force or under any order of the Government and to evaluate the working of such safeguards.
- To investigate into specific complaints with respect to the deprivation of rights and safeguards of the Scheduled Tribes.
- To partake and advise in the planning process of socio-economic development of the Scheduled Tribes and to evaluate the growth of their development under the Union and any State.
- To present to the President, annually and at such other times as the Commission may deem fit, reports upon the working of those safeguards.
- To prepare in such reports, recommendations as to the measures that should be taken by the Union or any State for effective implementation of those safeguards and other measures for the protection, welfare and socio-economic development of the Scheduled Tribes.
- To release such other functions in relation to the protection, welfare and development and advancement of the Scheduled Tribes as the President may, subject to the provisions of any law made by Parliament, by rule specify.
Powers of the Commission:
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:
- Summoning and applying the attendance of any person from any part of India and examining him on oath.
- Requiring the discovery and production of any documents.
- Receiving evidence on affidavits.
- Demanding any public record or copy thereof from any court or office.
- Issuing summons/communications for the examination of witnesses and documents.
- Any other matter which the President may by rule determine.
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:
- - Acting upon Article 23 of the Constitution which prohibits traffic in human beings and forced labour, etc.; in respect of STs.
- - Ban of child labour under Article 24; in respect of STs.
- - Educational safeguards under Article 15(4) for reservation of seats in educational institutions.
- - Economic safeguards under Article 244 and working of Fifth and Sixth Schedules and release of grants for raising the level of administration in tribal areas.
- - To protect the distinct language, script or culture under Article 29(i).
- - Working of service safeguards provided under Articles 16(4), 16(4A), 16(4B) and 335 providing for adequate representation of Scheduled Tribes in appointments or posts.
- - Enforcement of various laws such as:
- The Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.
- Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976 (in respect of Scheduled Tribes).
- The Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986 (in respect of Scheduled Tribes).
- State Acts and Regulations concerning alienation and restoration of land belonging to Scheduled Tribes.
- Forest Conservation Act, 1980 (in respect of Scheduled Tribes).
- The Panchayat (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996.
- Minimum Wages Act, 1948 (in respect of Scheduled Tribes).
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.
- Administration & Coordination Wing
- Service Safeguards Wing
- Atrocities Wing
- Economic & Social Development Wing
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.