The Indian Constitution & Amendments.
The Indian constitution is extremely lengthy and complex, so to keep it in line with all the current changes in the society amendments are necessary. As of 2021, a total of 105 amendments have been made to the Indian Constitution. The first-ever amendment to the constitution was made in 1950 and has continued since then whenever the need arose.
Under article 368 of Part XX of the constitution of India the powers of making amendments to itself have been given to the Indian Parliament. The process however, has been made increasingly difficult so as to not be misused by those in power . It has mentioned that the Parliament can change its procedures but cannot amend those provisions which are the basis of the ‘basic structure’ of the Constitution. The Constitution of India has been made in such a way that it is both flexible and rigid . Rigid since the constitution does not allow any useless amendments and flexible as when situations are dire it allows for reasonable reforms to take place in the form of amendments.
The Constitution (89th Amendment) Act, 2003
The 89th amendment to the Indian Constitution was made in 2003. This amendment was made with focus on Scheduled castes and tribes. Article 338 was amended and article 338A was inserted in the constitution. The erstwhile combined National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes was bifurcated into two separate bodies, namely, National Commission of SCs (Article- 338) and National Commission of STs (338-A).
This article (338) established the National Commission for Schedule castes & Scheduled tribes. The Commission shall consist of a Chairperson, Vice-Chairperson and three other Members and the conditions of service and tenure of office of the Chairperson, Vice-Chairperson and other Members so appointed shall be such as the President may by rule determine.
According to the amendment,in article 338 clauses (5), (9) and (10), the words “and Scheduled Tribes”, wherever they occur, shall be omitted.1
After article 338 of the Constitution, the following article shall be inserted, namely:-
“338A. National Commission for Scheduled Tribes.-(1) There shall be a Commission for the Scheduled Tribes to be known as the National Commission for the Scheduled Tribes.
(2) Subject to the provisions of any law made in this behalf by Parliament, the Commission shall consist of a Chairperson, Vice-Chairperson and three other Members and the conditions of service and tenure of office of the Chairperson, Vice-Chairperson and other Members so appointed shall be such as the President may by rule determine.2
(3) The Chairperson, Vice-Chairperson and other Members of the Commission shall be appointed by the President by warrant under his hand and seal.
(4) The Commission shall have the power to regulate its own procedure.
(5) It shall be the duty of the Commission-
(a) to investigate and monitor all matters relating to the safeguards provided for the Scheduled Tribes under this 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;
(b) to inquire into specific complaints with respect to the deprivation of rights and safeguards of the Scheduled Tribes;
(c) to participate and advise on the planning process of socio-economic development of the Scheduled Tribes and to evaluate the progress of their development under the Union and any State;
(d) to present to the President, annually and at such other times as the Commission may deem fit, reports upon the working of those safeguards;
(e) to make in such reports , recommendations as to the measures that should be taken by the Union or any State for the effective implementation of those safeguards and other measures for the protection, welfare and socio-economic development of the Scheduled Tribes; and
(f) to discharge 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.
(6) The President shall cause all such reports to be laid before each House of Parliament along with a memorandum explaining 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 of such recommendations.
(7) Where any such report, or any part thereof, relates to any matter with which any State Government is concerned, a copy of such report shall be forwarded to the Governor of the State who shall cause it to be laid before the Legislature of the State 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 of such recommendations.
(8) The Commission shall, while investigating any matter referred to in sub-clause (a) or inquiring into any complaint referred to in sub-clause (b) of clause (5), have all the powers of a civil court trying a suit and in particular in respect of the following matters, namely:-
(a) summoning and enforcing the attendance of any person from any part of India and examining him on oath;
(b) requiring the discovery and production of any document;
(c) receiving evidence on affidavits;
(d) requisitioning any public record or copy thereof from any court or office;
(e) issuing commissions for the examination of witnesses and documents;
(f) any other matter which the President may, by rule, determine.
(9) The Union and every State Government shall consult the Commission on all major policy matters affecting Scheduled Tribes.”.3
Salient Features of the 89th Amendment
The 89th Amendment Act by way of bifurcating the existing National Commission for Schedule Castes & Scheduled Tribes into two separate commissions allowed concentrated and equal focus to be given to both the communities. Especially in the case of Scheduled Tribes, it puts emphasis on the investigation and monitoring of issues related to the safety of scheduled Tribes. The National Commission for Scheduled Tribe’s duties include helping in participating and advising on the planning process of socio-economic development of scheduled tribes thus helping in their upliftment. Regular reports to the president reduce chances of corruption or foul play.
Thus the focus on the well-being and protection of safeguards of Scheduled Castes and Tribes by two separate commissions is the most important feature of the 89th Amendment Act.
- Article 338
- Article 338A
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