National Commission for Scheduled Castes and National Commission for Scheduled Tribes stated under Article 338 and Article 338 A of the Indian Constitution are a constitutional body and not a statutory body. Some other authorities like The National Commission for Minorities (1992), The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights (2007) are statutory bodies as they are established by the acts of the Parliament. National Commission for Backward Classes under Article 338 B of the Constitution has been given constitutional status by the Constitution (123rd Amendment bill, 2018) which has been provided assent by the President Ram Nath Kovind on 11th August, 2018. Before this, National Commission for Backward Classes was a statutory body.
Original Article 338 of the Constitution establishes a Special officer for Scheduled Castes and Schedule tribes to investigate any problems concerning the constitutional safeguards for Scheduled castes and Scheduled tribes and also that special officer is require to function for the benefit of SCs and STs. The concerned special officer is designated as Commissioner for Scheduled castes and Scheduled tribes.
In 1978, a multi-member commission for scheduled castes and scheduled tribes other than single commissioner was made by government through executive resolution and not by the act of the parliament. It was also a non-statutory body. A high-level Commission established under Article 338 is thought to be more effective than a single special officer in terms of Constitutional safeguards for Scheduled castes and Scheduled tribes. Than in 1987, government bought one more executive resolution and changed the functioning of the executive resolution passed in 1978 and also changed its name to National Commission for Scheduled castes and Scheduled tribes.
Finally, In 1990, there came a 65th Constitutional Amendment Act , which snapped away the provision of single officer in original Article 338 and multi-member commission made by executive resolution in 1978. This 65th Constitutional Amendment finally provides for the establishment of a high level multi-member National Commission for Scheduled castes and Scheduled tribes.
By the virtue of 89th Constitutional Amendment act of 2003, National Commission for Scheduled castes and Scheduled tribes was bifurcated into two seprate bodies namely National Commission for Scheduled Castes (under Article 388) and National Commisssion for Scheduled Tribes (under Article 388 A). National Commission for Scheduled castes and Scheduled tribes was bifurcated to show that all the problems, Cultural significance and Geographical significance of Scheduled tribes are different from Scheduled castes.
Focusing on National Commission for Scheduled castes i.e. Article 388, The Commission shall consist of a Chairperson, Vice-Chairperson, and five other Members, subject to the provisions of any law passed by Parliament in this regard, and the conditions of service and tenure of office of the Chairperson, Vice-Chairperson, and other Members so appointed shall be as determined by the President by rule. The president shall appoint the Chairperson, Vice- Chairperson, and other members of the commission by warrant under his hand and seal.
The National Commission for Scheduled castes will be able to control its own procedure. The Commission will be responsible for-
(a) Investigating and supervising all matters relevant to the safeguards provided for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes under Constitution, any other law in force at the time, or any order of the Government, and to evaluate the effectiveness of such safeguards.
(b) Looking into the particular concerns of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes being denied their rights and safeguards. This commission is required to enquire about the complaints regarding injustice and infringement of rights of SCs.
(c) Taking part in and advising on the planning process for the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes socio-economic development, as well as to assess their progress under the Union and any State government.
(d) Providing annual and other times as the Commission sees suitable reports to the President on the effectiveness of those safeguards.
(e) All such reports, together with a memorandum describing the action taken or proposed to be taken on the recommendations relating to the Union and the reasons for the non-acceptance, if any, of any such proposals, should be submitted before each House of Parliament by the President.
(f) A copy of any such report, or any part thereof, relating to any matter with which any State Government is concerned shall be forwarded to the Governor of the concerned State, who shall cause it to be laid before the State Legislature, along with a memorandum explaining the action taken or proposed to be taken on the recommendations relating to the State, and the reasons for the non-acceptance, if any, of any such recommendations.
National Commission for Scheduled castes will have the power of a Civil Courts while functioning as it is a quasi-judicial body. Powers of National Commission for Scheduled Castes includes-
(a) Summoning and requiring the appearance of anyone from wherever in India, and questioning him under oath.
(b) Requiring any document to be discovered and produced;
(c) Receiving affidavit evidence;
(d) Obtaining a copy of any public record from any court or office;
(e) Appointing commissions to examine witnesses and documents;
(f) Any other subject that the President may determine by rule.
On all the key policies concern affecting Scheduled castes, the Union and each State Government must consult the National Commission for Scheduled castes. National Commission for Scheduled Castes even have some responsibilities for Other Backward classes and Anglo – Indian Communities.
Article 388 A talks about National Commission for Scheduled Tribes. This Commission perform same functions and duties for Scheduled tribes which are performed by National Commission for Scheduled Castes for Scheduled Castes. Similarly all the members of this Commission are appointed by the President by warrant under his hand and seal. There are some other responsibilities on National Commission for Scheduled tribes which includes-
-Measures to be implemented to grant STs a living in forest areas ownership rights over small forest products.
– Legal measures to protect tribal groups’ rights to mineral resources, water resources, and other resources
– Actions should be made for tribal development and the establishment of more sustainable livelihood strategies
-Actions to be taken to increase the effectiveness of relief and rehabilitation for tribal groups displaced by development projects.
-Actions to be made to prevent tribal peoples from being ejected from their territory and to adequately rehabilitate those who have already been ejected.
-Steps to be done to elicit the most cooperation and participation from tribal tribes in the protection of forests and social afforestation.
-Measures to be taken to ensure that the Panchayats (Extension to Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996 is fully implemented.
– Actions to be taken to limit, and eventually abolish, tribals’ practise of shifting cultivation, which results in their continued disempowerment and environmental destruction.
Concluding this Article, 65th Constitutional Amendment Act, 1990, provides for the establishment of a high level multi-member National Commission for Scheduled castes and Scheduled tribes in place of a single officer for Scheduled castes and Scheduled tribes.
4.) Universal Bare Act of Constitution of India.
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