Amendment of Article 338 inserted a new Article 338A in the Constitution, resulting in the establishment of the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST) through the Constitution (89th Amendment) Act, 2003.
Through this amendment, the earlier known National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes was replaced by two separate Commissions namely:
- The National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC), and
- The National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST).
The Union and every State Government shall consult the Commission on all major policy matters affecting Scheduled Tribes.
Composition of NCST
The NCST shall consist of a Chairperson, Vice-Chairperson, and three other Members.
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.
The Chairperson, Vice-Chairperson, and other Members of the Commission are appointed by the President by warrant under his hand and seal.
Term of Office
The term of office of the Chairperson, Vice-Chairperson, and each member is three years from the date of assumption of charge of the office.
The Chairperson, Vice-Chairperson, and other Members are not eligible for appointment for more than two terms.
The Chairperson has been given the rank of Union Cabinet Minister, the Vice-Chairperson is equal to the rank of a Minister of State and other Members have the rank of a Secretary to the Government of India.
The Chairperson, the Vice-Chairperson, and the Members shall be appointed from persons of ability, and integrity and have had a record of selfless service towards the Scheduled Tribes.
Subjects of the provision related to the persons of NCSTs:
- The Chairperson shall be belonging to the Scheduled Tribes.
- The Vice-Chairperson shall be belonging to the Scheduled Tribes.
- At least two of the other members shall be belonging to Scheduled Tribes.
- At least one other member of NCST shall be appointed from amongst women.
Resignation and Removal
The Chairperson, Vice-Chairperson, and other Members must address their resignation to the President in writing under his hand.
Removal of the Chairperson of NCSTs
The Chairperson shall be removed from the office by the order of the President.
The removal can be done only on the ground of Misbehaviour.
The President can remove the Chairman on the ground of Misbehaviour after Supreme Court inquires into the matter with the procedure prescribed under article 145 of the constitution.
President may by order remove the chairperson from office if the Chairperson:
- is an undischarged insolvent; or
- engaged in any paid employment outside the duties of his office during his term of office; or
- in the opinion of the President is unfit to continue the office.
Removal of Vice-Chairperson or Members of NCSTs
President shall remove a person from the office of Vice-Chairperson or Members if he/she:
- is an undischarged insolvent; or
- get convicted to sentenced to imprisonment for an offense that in the opinion of the President involves moral turpitude; or
- in the opinion of the President is unfit to continue the office; or
- incapable of acting or refuses to act; or
- absent from three consecutive meetings of the Commission without obtaining leave of absence; or
- abused the position of the Vice-Chairperson or Members in the opinion of the President.
Constitutional Safeguards Provided to STs
The constitution has provided several safeguards:
Educational & Cultural Safeguards
Art. 15(4): Special provisions for the advancement of other backward classes (which includes STs).
Art. 29: Protection of Interests of Minorities (which includes STs).
Art. 46: The State shall promote, with special care, the educational and economic interests of the weaker sections of the people, and in particular, of the Scheduled Castes, and the Scheduled Tribes, and shall protect them from social injustice and all forms of exploitation.
Art. 350: Right to conserve distinct Language, Script, or Culture.
Art. 350: Instruction in Mother Tongue.
Art. 23: Prohibition of traffic in human beings and beggars and another similar form of forced labor.
Art. 24: Forbidding Child Labour.
Art.244: Provisions of the Fifth Schedule shall apply to the administration & control of the Scheduled Areas and Scheduled Tribes in any State other than the states of Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram, and Tripura which are covered under the Sixth Schedule.
Art. 275: Grants in-Aid to specified States covered under Fifth and Sixth Schedules of the Constitution.
Art.164(1): Provides for Tribal Affairs Ministers in Bihar, MP, and Orissa.
Art. 330: Reservation of seats for STs in Lok Sabha.
Art. 337: Reservation of seats for STs in State Legislatures.
Art. 243: Reservation of seats in Panchayats.
Art. 371: Special provisions in respect of NE States and Sikkim.
Functions of the NCST
It shall be the duty of the Commission:
To examine and keep track of all issues relevant to the safeguards provided to the Scheduled Tribes under this Constitution or by a government mandate, as well as to assess how well these protections are functioning.
To look into particular complaints regarding the Scheduled tribes’ deprivation of protections and rights.
To assess the status of the Scheduled Tribes’ socioeconomic development under the Union and any State, and to participate in and provide advice on the planning process.
To submit a report to the President every year and at other times as the Commission may deem appropriate, regarding the implementation of safeguards and other measures necessary for the successful implementation of programs and schemes dealing with the welfare and socio-economic development of STs.
To carry out whatever further duties the President may see necessary for the protection, welfare, development, and progress of the Scheduled tribes, subject to the provisions of any law made by Parliament by rule specify.
Powers of the NCST
The Commission shall have the power to regulate its own procedure.
The Commission is vested with the powers of a civil court for any kind of investigation and inquiry, having authority to:
- Summon and enforce the attendance of any person and examine on oath;
- Discovery & production of any documents;
- Receive evidence on affidavits;
- Requisition any public record or copy thereof from any court or office;
- Issue Commissions for examination of witnesses and documents; and
- Any matter which President, by rule, may determine.
Article Written By: Priti Raj