National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC) was set up to safeguard the interest of Scheduled Castes and protect them from discrimination and exploitation. It promotes the social, economic, cultural, and educational development of the SCs. NCSC is a Constitutional body established by Article 338 of the Indian Constitution. It falls under the Union Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment.
Originally, Article 338 of the Indian Constitution provided for the appointment of Special Officer for Scheduled Castes (SCs) & Scheduled Tribes (STs). This special officer was designated as Commissioner for SCs and STs, who investigates all the matters relating to the constitutional safeguard for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes and report to the President on their work.
In 1978, the Government of India set up a non-statutory multimember Commission for the welfare of the SCs & STs through a Resolution. The government renamed it the National Commission for SCs & STs and modified its functions through another resolution in 1987. The Office of the Commissioner for SCs & STs also continued to exist.
The 65th Constitutional Amendment Act of 1990 amended Article 338 of the Constitution and provided for the setting up of multimember National Commission for SCs & STs in place of a single special officer for SCs and STs. Under this Act, the Commission was constituted in 1992. Therefore, this newly formed commission under Article 338 replaced the Commissioner for SCs & STs and Commission set under the 1987 resolution.
The 89th Constitutional Amendment Act of 2003 bifurcated the combined National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes into two separate bodies:
- National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC) under Article 338.
- National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST) under Article 338-A.
In 2004, The first National Commission for Scheduled Castes was set up under the chairmanship of Suraj Bhan.
Structure of NCSC
- NCSC is a multimember body comprising a Chairperson, a vice-chairperson, and the other three members.
- The President of India appoints the chairperson and other members of NCSC by warrant under his hand and seal.
- President also determines their service conditions and tenure of office.
Function of NCSC
- The commission monitors and investigates all the matters related to the constitutional and other legal safeguards provided for the scheduled castes and evaluates the working of such safeguards.
- It takes part and advises actively on the planning process of the socio-economic development of the scheduled castes and examines their development progress under the Union or any State.
- It inquires into specific complaints regarding the deprivation of rights and safeguards provided for SCs.
- The commission makes recommendations to the measures taken by the Union or State for the effective implementation of safeguards for the protection, welfare, and socio-economic development of scheduled castes.
- Report regularly to the President of India upon the working of safeguards for scheduled castes.
- Discharge other functions as may specify by the President for the welfare, development, and advancement of the scheduled castes.
National Commission for Scheduled Castes has also been required to discharge all these similar functions concerning the Anglo-Indian Community. In other words, NCSC has to investigate and monitor all the matters related to the constitutional and legal safeguards for the Anglo-Indian Community and report to the President upon the working of these safeguards.
Powers of NCSC
NCSC is empowered to regulate its own procedure. The Central and State governments have to consult the commission on major policy matters that affects the scheduled castes.
While investigating any matter or inquiring into any complaint regarding scheduled castes, the commission has the all powers of a civil court, which are as follow:
- Summoning the person from any part of the country and examining him on oath.
- Receiving evidence on affidavits.
- Requiring the discovery and production of any document or public record.
- Requestioning public records from any office or court.
- Issuing summons for examination of the witnesses and documents.
Report of NCSC
NCSC submits its annual report to the President of India annually or when it thinks necessary. The President further places these reports before the Parliament, along with a memorandum. The memorandum explains the action taken on the recommendations made by the commission and the reasons for the non-acceptance of any of such recommendations.
If any such report of the commission or part of its pertaining to the state government, President also forward that report to the State governor concerned. The governor places that report before the state legislature, along with the memorandum of action.
Constitutional Provisions for the upliftment of Scheduled Castes
Article 15(4) under Part III of the Indian Constitution provided for State to make the special provisions for promoting the interest and advancement of socially & educational backward classes or for the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.
Article 16(4A) capacitates the state to provide reservations to the Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes in matters of the promotion, as long as State feels the Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes are not adequately represented in the government services.
Article 17 deals with the abolishment of Untouchability and forbids its practice in any form.
Article 46 under Part IV of the Indian Constitution provided the State to promote the educational and economic opportunities of Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes, and other weaker sections.
Article 330 under Part XVI of the Indian Constitution provided the reservation of seats in Lok Sabha (House of People) for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.
Article 332 deals with the reservation of seats in legislative assemblies of the States for the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.
Article 335 of the Consitution provided for the claims of members of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes to the services and posts. Their claims are to be taken into consideration while making appointments to the Centre and State public services without sacrificing the efficiency of the administration.
Article 341 refers to the Scheduled Castes with respect to the States or Union territory. The Article laid down the President of India in consultation with the Governor of the concerned State include any caste as the Scheduled Caste.