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Q. What are the constitutional provisions with respect to the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes?

Ans. The Indian society is divided into four varnas ,often referred to as ‘Jatis or Castes’. At the lowest rung of social hierarchy are ‘Shudras’ which have been designated as ‘Harijans’ by Gandhi and as ‘Scheduled Castes’ by the Constitution. These castes are called Scheduled Castes as these are included in the list or schedule prepared by government. There are certain communities which have their own distinct culture and religion and are excluded from traditional social structure. These communities are called Scheduled Tribes in the Constitution. As per the provisions of the Constitution (Article 341), the President of India shall prepare the lists of such castes and tribes for the first time, in consultation with the Governors of States. Parliament has been authorized to make subsequent modifications in such lists as and when required. It means the lists of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes will not be the same for all states but differ from state to state depending upon the social and educational backwardness of such castes and communities. The Scheduled Castes order 1950, issued by the Government of India states that certain castes belonging to only Hindu and Sikh religion are designated as Scheduled Castes. Thus there are no Scheduled Castes outside these two religions. The Supreme Court of India in its verdicts in two cases—S. B. S. K. Federation (Railway) Vs. Union of India and State Bank of India, Kerala Vs. N. M. Thomas upheld that the term ‘Scheduled Castes’ does not mean some specific caste. The court, in two other cases—Inder Prakash Vs. Dy. Commissioner, Delhi and Dadaji Vs. Sukhdev Babu declared that the authority to modify the lists of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes lies with Parliament and the Court shall not consider the claims of any caste and community to be included in such lists.
The following are the measures prescribed in the Constitution for the welfare of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes—

(1) According to Article 15, the State shall not discriminate against any citizen only on the grounds of religion, castes, creed, etc. More positively, Article 15(4) further states that the State may (inspite of right to equality) make special provisions for the welfare of socially and educationally backward classes. Thus, if the State takes any measures in favor of these castes and communities it would not be challenged on the ground of right to equality.
(2) According to provisions of Article 19, the State can impose reasonable restrictions on the freedom of movement and residence of people, in the interest of Scheduled Tribes.
(3) Article 46 of the Constitution directs the State to protect the educational interests of weaker sections of society especially the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.
(4) According to the provisions of Article 330, 332 and 334, the seats are reserved in Parliament and State Legislatures in favour of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in proportion to their number in the population.
(5) Article 335 provides that the State shall consider the claims of members of S.C./S.T. for making reservation in services, keeping in mind the efficiency of the administration.
(6) The Article 338 of the Constitution (as amended in 1990 by 65th Amendment) provides for the establishment of National Commission for the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, which is assigned such duties as to investigate and monitor all matters related to the safeguards provided for the S.C./S.T. in the Constitution, to inquire into the specific complaints of violation of their rights and safeguards, to advise on the planning process of the development of S.C./S.T.. and to recommend suitable measures for the effective implementations of these safeguards and for the protection, welfare and advancement of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.
(7) As per the provisions of Article 339, the President is authorized to appoint a Commission after 10 years of the commencement of the Constitution to report on the administration of the Scheduled Areas and the welfare of Scheduled Tribes in the Stales.
The Government empowered to issue lions to States for Scheduled Areas
Tribes.
(8) Article 275(1) of the Constitution makes provision that the Union of India shall make grants to Slates for implementing welfare schemes in Scheduled Areas and for Scheduled Tribes.
(9) The Fifth and the Sixth Schedules of the Constitution (with reference to Article 244) make special provisions for the administration and welfare of Scheduled Areas and Scheduled Tribes.
(10) As per the provisions of the Constitution. there shall be a separate Minister in Bihar, MP. and Orissa. who will be charged with the responsibility for the welfare of Scheduled Tribes in these States.
(11) The 85th amendment of the Constitution restores reservation in promotion in government jobs to members of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.

 

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