Addressing a gathering in Bhopal on ‘Tribal Pride Day’, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan spoke of protecting tribal rights and the steps being taken by the government to protect tribal people.
How does Indian law protect Scheduled Tribes (STs)?
The Scheduled Castes and the Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 specifically deals with offences against Scheduled Tribes (STs). The Act prevents offences or atrocities against SC/ST members, and provides special courts for the trial of such offences. It also aims to offer relief and rehabilitation for SC/ST victims.
Offences against STs
Section 3 of the Act punishes offences against members of STs. Some of the major offences are listed below:
- a) Forcibly committing any act on an ST member, like removing their clothes, forcibly shaving their hair, painting their body or any other similar act which is against human dignity.
- b) Wrongfully driving out an ST member from their land, or interfering with their rights, including forest rights, rights over water or irrigation facilities etc.
- c) Employing an ST member for manual scavenging.
- d) Insulting or intimidating an ST member in any public place with the intention of humiliating them.
- e) Promoting feelings of enmity, hatred or ill-will against members of STs.
Punishments under the Act
The punishment for committing any of the abovementioned offences is imprisonment for six months to five years, along with a fine.
The Act provides for speedy trial of offences against STs. Specifically for this purpose, the State government, along with the Chief Justice of the High Court:
- a) establishes an Exclusive Special Court for one or more districts in the State; or
- b) specifies a Sessions Court to act as a Special Court.
National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCST)
The Commission investigates and monitors the protections provided for STs under the Constitution and other laws. It also inquires into specific complaints related to the rights of STs. Moreover, the Commission participates and advises in the planning process related to the socio-economic development of STs, and evaluates the progress of their development in our country. The government’s Ministry of Tribal Affairs also looks into the socio-economic development of STs.