6th schedule of the Indian constitution

6th Schedule of the Indian Constitution

  • To protect the rights of the tribal community in Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura, and Mizoram, it lays out the administration of tribal areas.
  • Article 244(2) and Article 275(1) of the Constitution provide these special provisions. 

  • Creating autonomous district councils (ADC) aims to protect the rights of the tribal population.

  • ADCs represent a district to which the state legislature has granted varied degrees of autonomy under the Constitution.

Composition of ADCs

  • ADCs have up to 30 members with a term of five years.

  • It can make laws, rules, and regulations concerning land, forest, water, agriculture, village councils, health, sanitation, village- and town-level policing, inheritance, marriage and divorce, social customs and mining, etc.

  • The Bodoland Territorial Council in Assam is an exception, with more than 40 members and the right to make laws on 39 issues.

Features of the 6th Schedule of the Constitution

  • To exercise specific legislative and judicial powers, provisions have been provided for the establishment of district councils and regional councils. Their jurisdiction, however, is limited by the High Court in question.
    • If all parties are Scheduled Tribe members and the maximum sentence is less than five years in prison, they have the authority to establish courts to hear the matter.
    • Additionally, they have the authority to charge taxes, fees, and tolls on land, buildings, vehicles, boats, goods entering the territory, ferries, bridges, employment, income, and general taxes for the upkeep of roads and schools.

  • Autonomous districts and autonomous regions are exempt from the provisions of the Acts of Parliament or the State Legislature, or they do so with specific modifications and exclusions.

  • The Governor is given authority over the councils. He/she, by public notification, may:
    • Add or exclude any new area. 
    • Make a new autonomous district.
    • Define any autonomous district's boundaries.
    • The size of an existing autonomous district may be increased or decreased.
    • Change any autonomous district's name.

Significance of the 6th Schedule 

  • Socio-cultural benefits
    • To protect tribal identity: a non-interfering and internal self-determination policy in the area to safeguard the cultural rights and uniqueness of the local tribes.
    • Panshsheel principles: to ensure growth in accordance with Nehru's Panchsheel ideas.
    • Ethnic security: The protection of their traditions, better economic development, and, most crucially, ethnic security is determined by the decentralization, de-concentration, and disinvestment mandate. 

  • Minimal state interference: ADCs have the ability to wield both executive and judicial authority. For instance, different rules governing inheritance, weddings, contracts, and other matters are governed by separate laws made by district/regional councils. 

  • Self-governance: The district/regional council and the tribes have maintained significant independence and self-governance. 

Issues with the 6th Schedule

    • Violative of fundamental rights: The 6th Schedule infringes on non-tribals rights to equality before the law (article 14), the prohibition against discrimination (article 15), the freedom to settle anywhere in India (article 19), and ultimately the right to life and personal liberty by discriminating against them under Article 21. 
  • Socio-cultural issues:
      • Migration: For instance, the Meghalaya riot against non-tribals drove them out of the state; their population share fell from 20% in 1972 when the hill state was carved off from Assam to 14% in 2011.

      • Social cleavage: There have been ongoing riots between tribals and non-tribals due to the non-tribals rights being violated. Example Meghalaya.

      • Excess emphasis on tribal exclusivity: The whole objective of the fifth and sixth schedules may be defeated because it prevents their assimilation into society, leaving them isolated and thus disadvantageous. 
  • Governance issues
    • Conflict of interest: The district councils and the state legislatures frequently have competing interests. For instance, Meghalaya is still entirely subject to the 6th Schedule despite the state's establishment, frequently leading to disputes with the state government.
    • Lack of political mobilization: Regionalism, localism, and communism are common political ideologies among mainstream parties, and they have hampered development efforts. There needs to be more political engagement in this area. 
    • A platform for politicians: Because the state enjoys superiority in disputes between the council and the state legislature, the council serves only as a launching pad for future politicians seeking higher office. 
    • State within the state: The district/regional councils have a distinctly separate form of government and resemble a "state inside a state" in several ways. Issues with councils
      • Lack of funding: 
      • Area of control reconstitution of ADC
      • Lack of inclusiveness
      • Demographic change

  • Customary law: The 6th Schedule protects customary laws, but the same needs to be codified.
  • Corruption and illicit activities: Several autonomous council members are reported to have assisted in funnelling funds to various extremist organization factions. The NIA and CBI, for instance, are scrutinizing the north Cachar autonomous council. 

  • Economic issues:
    • Deters economic development: Economic development is typically hampered by inner line permits, which discourage investment and tourists in the area
    • Funding issues: Because the finance committee does not devolve funds, the sixth schedule areas are at the mercy of government funds. 

Way forward

  • 125th constitutional amendment bill
    • Village municipal councils: By establishing elected village municipal councils, the amendment ensures local democracy.  
    • Powers of village municipal council: The village councils will have the authority to spread strategies for social justice and economic growth, including those involving agriculture and land.

Book A Free Counseling Session