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