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By Shikara Academy

Hyderabad: Though upon passing of the 65th Constitutional Amendment Act of 1990, the National Commission for STs came into being with the National Commission for SCs under Article 338 of the Constitution to effectively monitor the safeguards provided for SCs and STs. Geographically and culturally, the STs are different from the SCs and their problems are also different from those of SCs. Thus in 1999, a new Ministry of Tribal Affairs was created to provide a sharp focus to the welfare and development of the STs. It was felt necessary that the Ministry of Tribal Affairs should coordinate all activities relating to the STs as it would not be administratively feasible for the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment to perform this role.

Hence, in order to safeguard the interests of the STs more effectively, it was proposed to set up a separate National Commission for STs by bifurcating the existing combined National Commission for SCs and STs.

By passing the 89th Constitutional Amendment Act of 2003, it further amended the Article 338 and inserted a new Article 338-A in the Constitution. The separate National Commission for STs came into existence in 2004.

OBJECTIVE

To oversee the implementation of various safeguards provided to STs under the Constitution or under any other law for time being in force or under any other order to the Government and to evaluate the working of such safeguards.

APPOINTMENT

The Chairperson and members of the NCST are appointed by the President by warrant under his hand and seal.

COMPOSITION

Chairperson, Vice Chairperson and three members

CONDITIONS OF SERVICE

The conditions of service and tenure of office of the Chairperson, Vice-Chairperson and other Members of the National Commission for Scheduled Castes are governed by the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes Chairperson, Vice-Chairperson and Members (Conditions of Service and Tenure) Rules, 2004 notified by the Ministry of Tribal Affairs on 20 February 2004. These Rules, inter alia, provide that:

The Chairperson shall be appointed from amongst eminent social-political workers belonging to the Scheduled Tribes, who inspire confidence amongst the Scheduled Tribes by their very personality and record of selfless service.

The Vice-Chairperson and all other Members out of whom at least two shall be appointed from amongst persons belonging to the Scheduled Tribes.

At least one other Member shall be appointed from amongst women.
The Chairperson, the Vice-Chairperson and the other Members shall hold office for a term of three years from the date on which he/ she assumes such office.

The Chairperson, the Vice-Chairperson and the other Members shall not be eligible for appointment for more than two terms.

The Chairperson shall have the rank of a Cabinet Minister and the Vice-Chairperson that of Minister of State and other Members shall have the rank of a Secretary to the Government of India unless otherwise specified.

The Chairperson, the Vice-Chairperson and other Members shall be entitled to such salaries and allowances as admissible to a Secretary to the Government of India.

Provided that the Chairperson shall be entitled to a rent free accommodation.

TERM OF OFFICE

• Every Member shall hold office for a term of three years from the date on which he/she assumes such office.

• The Members shall not be eligible for appointment for more than two terms.

FUNCTIONS OF THE COMMISSION

To Investigate and Monitor matters relating to Safeguards provided for STs under the Constitution or under other laws or under Government Order, to evaluate the working of such Safeguards.

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

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;

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;

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;

POWERS OF THE COMMISSION

For Investigation and Inquiry, the Commission is vested with powers of a civil court having authority to:
a. Summon and enforce attendance of any person and examine on oath;

b. Discovery and production of any documents;
c. Receive evidence on affidavits;

d. Requisition any public record or copy thereof from any court or office;
e. Issue Commissions for examination of witnesses and documents; and

f. Any matter which President, by rule, may determine.


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Author: Howard Caldwell