The following safeguards are prescribed in the Constitution for the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes:
Art. 15(4) : Clause 4 of article 15 is the fountain head of all provisions regarding compensatory discrimination for SCs/STs.This clause started the era of reservations in India. It says thus,
“Nothing in this article or in article 29(2) shall prevent the state from making any provisions for the advancement of any socially and economically backward classes of citizens or for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.”
In the case of Balaji vs State of Mysore , the SC held that reservation cannot be more than 50%. Finally, in the case of Indra Sawhney vs Union of India , SC upheld the decision given under Balaji vs State of Mysore that reservation should not exceed 50% except only in special circumstances. It further held that it is valid to sub-categorize the reservation between backward and more backward classes. However, total should still not exceed 50%. It also held that the carry forward rule is valid as long as reservation does not exceed 50%.
Art. 15 (5) : This clause allows the state to make special provisions for backward classes or SCs or STs for admissions in private educational institutions, aided or unaided.
Art. 16(4): This clause allows the state to reserve vacancies in public service for any backward classes of the state that are not adequately represented in the public services.
Art. 16 (4A): This allows the state to implement reservation in the matter of promotion for SCs and STs.
Art. 16(4B): This allows the state to consider unfilled vacancies reserved for backward classes as a separate class of vacancies not subject to a limit of 50% reservation.
Art. 17: This abolishes untouchability and its practice in any form.
Although the term untouchability has not been defined in the constitution or in any act but its meaning is to be understood not in a literal sense but in the context of Indian society. Due to the varna system, some people were relegated to do menial jobs such as cleaning toilets. They were not even allowed to enter public places such as temples and shops. The constitution strives to remove this abhorring practice by not only making the provision a fundamental right but also allows punishment to whoever practices or abets it in any form. Towards this end, Protection of Civil Rights Act 1955 was enacted. It has implemented several measures to eradicate this evil from the society. It stipulates up to 6 months imprisonment or 500 Rs fine or both. In Asiad Projects Workers Case , SC has held that right under Art 17 is available against private individuals as well and it is the duty of the state to ensure that this right is not violated.
Art. 19(5): It allows the state to impose restriction on freedom of movement or of residence in the benefit of Scheduled Tribes.
Art. 40: Provides reservation in 1/3 seats in Panchayats to SC/ST.
Art. 46: Enjoins the states to promote with care the educational and economic interests of the weaker sections, specially SC and STs.
Art. 164: Appoint special minister for tribal welfare in the states of MP, Bihar, and Orrisa.
Art. 275: Allows special grant in aids to states for tribal welfare.
Art. 330 & 332: Allows reservation of seats for SC/ST in the parliament as well as in state
Art. 335: Allows relaxation in qualifying marks for admission in educational institutes or promotions for SCs/STs. In the case of State of MP vs Nivedita Jain, SC held that complete relaxation of qualifying marks for SCs/STs in Pre-Medical Examinations for admission to medical colleges is valid.
Art. 338,338A & 339: Establishes a National Commission of SCs and STs.
Art. 339 allow the central govt. to direct states to implement and execute plans for the betterment of SC/STs.
Art. 340: Allows the president to appoint a commission to investigate the condition of socially and economically classes and table the report in the parliament.
Constitutional Safeguards for STs
The safeguards provided to Scheduled Castes are grouped in the following broad heads:
- Social Safeguards
- Economic Safeguards
- Educational & Cultural Safeguards
- Political Safeguards
- Service Safeguards
Article 17, 23, 24 and 25 (2) (b) of the constitution enjoins upon 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 mention 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
- 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 employments belong to
- 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
Article 23, 24 and 46 form part of the economic safeguards for the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled 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 from social injustice and all forms of exploitation.
Educational and Cultural Safeguards
Article15 (4) Empowers the state to make special provisions for the advancement of any socially and educationally backward classes of citizens and for SCs. This provision has enabled the state to reserve seats for SCs in educational institutions in general and professional courses
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 under-
Article 243D Reservation of seats:
Article 243T Reservation of seats
Article 330 Reservation of seats for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in the House of the people
Article 332 Reservation of seats for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in the Legislative Assemblies of the States:
Service safeguards are contained in Articles 16(4), 16(4A), and
Article l6 (4) Nothing in this article shall prevent the State from making any provision for the reservation of appointments or posts in favour of any backward class of citizens which, in the opinion of the State ,is not adequately represented in the services under
Article l6 (4A) Nothing in this article shall prevent the State from making any provision for reservation in matters of promotion to any class or classes of posts in the services under the State in favour of the Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes which, in the opinion of the State are not adequately represented in the services under the
Article 335 Claims of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled tribes to services and posts- The claims of the members of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes shall be taken into consideration, consistently with the maintenance of efficiency of administration, in the making of appointments to services and posts in connection with the affairs of the Union or of a state.
Constitutional Safeguards for STs
I. Educational & Cultural Safeguards
Art. 15(4):- Special provisions for advancement of other backward classes(which includes STs);
Art. 29:- Protection of Interests of Minorities (which cludes STs);
Art. 46:– 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 from social injustice and all forms of exploitation,
Art. 350:- Right to conserve distinct Language, Script or Culture;
Art. 350:- Instruction in Mother Tongue.
Art. 23:- Prohibition of traffic in human beings and beggar and other similar form of forced labour;
Art. 24:- Forbidding Child Labour.
III. Economic Safeguards
Art.244:- Clause(1) Provisions of Fifth Schedule shall apply to the administration & control of the Scheduled Areas and Scheduled Tribes in any State other than the states of Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram and Tripura which are covered under Sixth Schedule, under Clause (2) of this Article.
Art. 275:- Grants in-Aid to specified States (STs&SAs) covered under Fifth and Sixth Schedules of the Constitution.
IV. Political Safeguards
Art.164(1):- Provides for Tribal Affairs Ministers in Bihar, MP and Orissa;
Art. 330:- Reservation of seats for STs in Lok Sabha;
Art. 337- Reservation of seats for STs in State Legislatures;
Art. 334:- 10 years period for reservation (Amended several times to extend the period.);
Art. 243:- Reservation of seats in Panchayats.
Art. 371:- Special provisions in respect of NE States and Sikkim
V. Service Safeguards
(Under Art.16(4),16(4A),164(B) Art.335, and Art. 320(40)