National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST)


The National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST) was established by amending Article 338 and inserting a new Article 338A in the Constitution through the Constitution (89th Amendment) Act, 2003. By this amendment, the erstwhile National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes was replaced by two separate Commissions namely- (i) the National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC), and (ii) the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST) w.e.f. 19 February, 2004. Detailed background information about the historical evolution of the National Commission has been given in Chapter-1 of the first Report of the Commission for the year 2004-05 and 2005-06.

The term of office of Chairperson, Vice-Chairperson and each member is three years from the date of assumption of charge. The Chairperson has been given the rank of Union Cabinet Minister, and the Vice-Chairperson that of a Minister of State and other Members have the ranks of a Secretary to the Government of India.

Functions of the Commission

(Under Clause (5)of Art. 338A)

1. To investigate & Monitor matters relating to Safeguards provided for STs under the Constitution or under other laws or under Govt. Order, to evaluate the working of such Safeguards.

2. To inquire into specific complaints relating to Rights & Safeguards of STs;

3. To participate and Advise in the Planning Process relating to Socio-economic development of STs, and to Evaluate the progress of their development under the Union and any State;

4. To submit report to the President annually and  at such other times as the Commission may  deem  fit, upon/ working of Safeguards, Measures required for effective implementation of Programmers/ Schemes relating to Welfare and Socio-economic development of STs;

5. To discharge such other functions in relation to STs as the President may, subject to the provisions of any law made by Parliament, by rule specify;

6. The Commission would also discharge the following other functions in relation to the protection, welfare and development & advancement of the Scheduled Tribes, namely:-

(6) (i)  Measures that need to be taken over conferring ownership rights in respect of minor forest produce to the Scheduled Tribes living in forest areas.

(6) (ii) Measures to be taken to safeguard rights to the Tribal Communities over mineral resources, water resources etc. as per law.

(6) (iii) Measures to be taken for the development of tribals and to work for move viable livelihood strategies.

(6) (iv) Measures to be taken to improve the efficacy of relief and rehabilitation measures for tribal groups displaced by development projects.

(6) (v)  Measures to be taken to prevent alienation of tribal people from land and to effectively rehabilitate such people in whose case alienation has already taken place.

(6) (vi) Measures to be taken to elicit maximum cooperation and involvement of Tribal Communities for protecting forests and undertaking social afforestation.

(6) (vii) Measures to be taken to ensure full implementation of the Provisions of Panchayats (Extension to the Scheduled Areas) Act, 1996 (40 of 1996).

(6) (viii) Measures to be taken to reduce and ultimately eliminate the practice of shifting cultivation by Tribals that lead to their continuous disempowerment and degradation of land and the environment.

(6) (ix) Copy of Ministry of Tribal Affairs notification dated 23.08.2005 regarding the extended terms of reference of NCST

(6) (x) NCST letter dated 21/10/2008 to MTA furnishing detailed proposal for strengthening of NCST

(6) (xi) D.O. Letter dated 13/01/2011 from Chairperson NCST to the Minister for Tribal Affairs

(6) (xii) UO dated 24/05/2010 from PMO to Ministry of Tribal Affairs regarding action to be taken on important pending issues

(6) (xiii) D.O letter dated 05/03/2010 from VC, NCST to Minister to Minister for Tribal Affairs for resolving critical issues involved in efficient performance of NCST

Powers of the Commission

(Under Clause (8) of Art. 338A)

1. For Investigation and Inquiry, the Commission is vested with powers of a civil court having authority to:

(1) a. Summon and enforce attendance of any person and examine on oath;

(1) b. Discovery & production of any documents;

(1) c. Receive evidence on affidavits;

(1) d. Requisition any public record or copy thereof from any court or office;

(1) e. Issue Commissions for examination of witnesses and documents; and

(1) f. Any matter which President, by rule, may determine.

2. Copy of order dated 05.02.1996 of Ministry of Welfare regarding grant of power of Dept. of Central Govt to NCSC & NCSTs

3. Department of Personnel & Training O.M. No. 36036/2/97-Estt (Res) dated 01/01/1998

4. D.O. letter dated 05/03/2010 from VC, NCST to Minister for Tribal Affairs for resolving critical issues involved in efficient performance of the NCST

Constitutional Provisions for Protection and Development of Scheduled Castes


Social Safeguards

Articles 17, 23,24 and 25 (2) (b) of the Constitution enjoins the State to provide social safeguards to Scheduled Castes. Article 17 relates to abolition of untouchability being practiced in society. The Parliament enacted the Protection of Civil Rights Act, 1955 and the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 to tackle the problem of untouchability, which is being practiced against Scheduled Castes.

Article 23 prohibits traffic in human beings and ‘begar’ and other similar forms of forced labour and provides that any contravention of this provision shall be an offence punishable in accordance with law. Although there is no specific mentions about the Scs in this Article but majority of the bonded labour come from SCs. Thus, this Article has a special significance for them. The Parliament enacted Bonded Labour System (Abolition) Act, 1976 for identification, liberation and rehabilitation of bonded labourers.

Article 24 provides that no child below the age of 14 years shall be employed to work in any factory or mine or engaged in any other hazardous employment. Even in this Article, there is no specific mention about the SCs but substantial portion of child labour engaged in hazardous employment belong to SCs.

Article 25 (2) (b) provides that Hindu religious institutions of a public character shall be opened to all classes and sections of Hindus. The term Hindu includes persons professing Sikh, Jain and Buddhist religion.

Economic Safeguards

Article 23, 24 and 46 form part of the economic safeguards for the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. The provisions of Articles 23 and 24 have already been discussed in earlier paragraphs.

Article 46 provides, “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 fromsocial injustice and all forms of exploitation.

Educational and Cultural Safeguards

Article 15 (4) empowers the State to make special provisions for the advancement of any socially and educationally backward classes of citizens and for SCs. This provisions has enabled the State to reserve seats for SCs in educational institutions in general and professional courses etc.

Political Safeguards

Reservation of seats for SCs/STs in the local bodies of the States/UTs, Legislative Assemblies of the State and in Parliament are provided in the Constitution of India in Atciles 243D, 243T, 330, 332 and 334.

Service Safeguards

Service Safeguards are contained in Articles 16 (4), 16 (4A) and 335.