National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC) | Constitutional Bodies – Indian Polity Notes

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• The National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC) is a constitutional body that works to protect the interests of the scheduled castes (SC) in India. • Its goal is to protect the SC group from discrimination and exploitation, as well as to help them improve their lives.

• Article 338 of India’s constitution talks about this commission. It says that there will be a National Commission for the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes whose job it will be to investigate and keep track of all issues related to the protections given to them, to look into specific complaints, and to take part in and give advice on the planning process for their social and economic development, among other things.

Scheduled Caste

• The 1931 Census was the first time that “depressed classes” were defined in a clear way. After that, the Government of India Act of 1935 was the first time that “Scheduled Caste” was used to describe socially disadvantaged groups.

• Article 366 of the Constitution of India says that scheduled castes are “such castes, races, or tribes or parts of all groups within such castes, races, or tribes as are seen under Article 341(1) to be scheduled castes for the purposes of the Constitution.”

National Commission for Scheduled Castes – Historical Background

• Special Officer: In order to make sure that the Constitution’s protections for “scheduled castes” and “scheduled tribes” work well, Article 338 of the Constitution says that a “special officer” can be chosen.

• This Special Officer was given the title of Commissioner for Schedule Caste and Scheduled Tribes and was told to look into everything related to the protection for Schedule Caste and Scheduled Tribes and report to the President on how well it was working.

• Article 338 of the Constitution was changed because members of Parliament said that the office of the Commissioner wasn’t enough to make sure that Constitutional safeguards were being followed. Instead, a system with more than one person was put in place.

• While the act to change Article 338 was still being thought about, the government chose through an administrative decision to set up a commission with more than one member.

• So, in 1978, the first commission for the Scheduled Caste and the Scheduled was set up.

• When the constitution (65th Amendment Bill) of 1990 was signed into law, the National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes was given official approval by the government.

• The first Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Commissioner was fired.

• 89th Constitutional Amendment Act of 2003: The old National Commission for Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes has been replaced by the National Commission for Scheduled Caste and the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes.

 In 2004, Suraj Bhan led the first National Commission for Scheduled Castes, which was made up of people from these groups.

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Structure of the NCSC:

• It has a chair, a vice chair, and three other members.

• The President gives them their jobs by signing and sealing an order.

• The chairman is like a minister in the government, and the vice-chairman is like a minister of state.

National Commission for Scheduled Caste Terms of Office

• The National Scheduled Tribes Commission’s head doesn’t have a set term. He stays in his job as long as the president of India wants him to. But by custom, his term is set at three years.

Powers of the National Commission for Scheduled Caste

• The Commission will be able to set its own rules for how it works. For Investigation and Inquiry, the Commission has the power of a civil court, which means it can: • Order anyone to show up and question them under oath.

• Get proof in the form of statements.

• Finding out what papers there are and getting them.

• Question someone under oath.

• Give out commissions so that witnesses and papers can be looked at.

• Anything that a rule gives the President the power to decide.

Functions

• Keeping an eye on and looking into any problems with the constitutional protections for the SCs.

• Looking into reports that the SCs’ rights and protections have been taken away.

• Helping plan the socioeconomic growth of SCs and giving advice to the central or state government on how to do this.

• Give the President of the country regular updates on how these safeguards are being put into place.

• Suggesting steps that should be taken to help with the SCs’ socioeconomic development and other actions that help them.

• Any other job that has to do with the well-being, safety, growth, and progress of the SC community.

• The Commission has to do similar things for the Anglo-Indian Community as it does for the SCs.

• Until 2018, the commission also had to do similar things for the “other backward classes,” or “OBCs.” The 102nd Amendment Act of 2018 took this duty away from it.

The Commission keeps an eye on the setting up of special courts for fast trials of crimes under the Civil Rights Act and the Atrocities Act. It also keeps an eye on how quickly these courts finish their cases. Over the years, the Commission has looked into a number of reports of killings on the spot.

Issues related to the role of National Commission for Scheduled Castes

Non-binding recommendations: 89% of all crimes against SCs and STs are against Scheduled Castes people.

Even though the Commission has a lot of power to investigate and ask questions in this area and can decide who is to blame and what should be done, its suggestions are not legally binding.

• Less sensitive: It’s clear that the Commission’s current objectives favour the most powerful people in these groups.

Most of the time, the Commission acts on complaints. Because of this, it is said that the Commission has not been sensitive enough to the poor Dalits, whose poverty is caused by a lack of education or knowledge.

 The Commission hasn’t done enough with its power to look into things on its own.

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• Litigation: If it was a criminal investigation, it would have to follow the rules and procedures about proof and prosecution that are in place at the time.

This makes it harder for the commission to do its job because it opens it up to lawsuits and appeals to higher court bodies. This makes the commission’s work useless.

• Delays: There are delays in both running the investigation and making a decision.

A lot of people also think that the Commission tends to agree with the government in most situations.

• Unusual: The Commission is meant to put together an annual report for Parliament.

Reports are often brought up for discussion two or more years after they were sent to the President.

Even when Reports are brought up in Parliament, they are often not talked about.

• Proliferation: In many policy areas, like with the Scheduled Castes, the increase in the number of organisations has made it hard to understand what each one does and how it works.

Duplicating and adding more institutions has made things even more confusing.

NCSC needs to take steps in this area.

• Strengthening the Scheduled Castes and Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act’s protections for Dalits:

The Commission can make it easier for people to report crimes online and keep track of them.

By making Standard Operating Procedures that are easy to understand and available in local languages at all police offices, it can help people understand how to file a case.

• Building up the institutions’ skills and making them more aware: The Commission can help lawyers, judges, and cops improve their skills. This can help them connect with people from Scheduled Castes in a caring way.

The Commission can help raise awareness at least among government agencies and groups by keeping an eye on how they handle complaints, such as with an internal complaints committee.

• Making sure that current government policies are carried out well: The Commission can talk with lawmakers and set priorities for how Ministries spend money on things that lead to results.

Each government should put 15% of its budget towards a Scheduled Caste Sub Plan. The Commission can reorganise these funds to create jobs, help people start their own businesses, and build their skills, including their soft skills.

The Commission can keep an eye on how well current programmes work and what effects they have.

• Scheduled Caste Sub Plan: Every year, the Union Budget sets aside money just for the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribe.

This money is spent through the Scheduled Caste Sub Plan (SCSP) and the Tribal Sub Plan (TSP). Under the SCSP and TSP, all Central Ministries and departments are required to set aside money.

• Reward good social work: The Commission can reward a department or body for being innovative, successful, and having a positive effect on the work they do.

The Commission is required by the constitution to help plan for the social and economic well-being of SCs. It should use this responsibility to guide the state services that deal with the real-world problems in the country.

• Better engagement with civil society: The Commission can set up a way for civil society groups working on Dalit problems to work together in a planned way.

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• Behavioural nudge: The Commission can find social practises that lead to discrimination and help civil society and the government plan debates, discussions, and awareness campaigns about them.

• Help people become more financially independent and start their own businesses: It can talk about and urge universities to set up short courses on entrepreneurship. It can also make sure that government programmes, like the Stand Up India Scheme, reach the people they are meant for.

It can support a participatory approach to economic empowerment by listening to the ideas that people in the community come up with.

It can help people learn new skills and help small businesses grow in the service economy.

Scheduled Castes people don’t usually own land or work in agriculture. So, they need help to connect with local and other markets and compete with them. This can be done through coaching and other kinds of support that don’t involve money.

• Getting ready for future problems by making it easier for researchers from different fields to work together: The Commission can ask Central universities and civil society to first list the five biggest problems Dalits are likely to face in the next five years and suggest ways to solve them.

NCSC has been given many powers to stop attacks against Dalits. It would be good for the Commission to do an internal evaluation of its goals on a regular basis and rewrite them in a way that makes them more fair so that it can do its job the way it was meant to be done.

Other Constitutional Measures to Help the Schedule Caste

• Article 15:4 talks about the special rules for their progress.

• Article 16(4A) talks about “reservation in matters of promotion to any class or classes of posts in the services under the State in favour of SCs/STs, which are not adequately represented in the services under the State.”

• Untouchability is done away with in Article 17.

Article 46 says that the government must “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 protect them from social injustice and all forms of exploitation.” Article 335 says that the claims of members of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes must be taken into account while keeping the efficiency of administration.

• Articles 330 and 332 of the Constitution set aside places for the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes in the House of the People and in the legislative assemblies of the States.

• In Part IX of the Constitution, which is about Panchayats, and in Part IXA, which is about Municipalities, reservations for SC and ST people have been planned for and made.