Sixth Schedule

Sixth Schedule



The 6th Schedule of the Indian Constitution delineates special provisions for the administration of tribal areas in Assam, Mizoram, Meghalaya, and Tripura.

Enacted to protect and promote the distinct cultural heritage of tribal communities, this schedule establishes Autonomous District Councils (ADCs) in these regions. With its constitutional provisions enshrined in Articles 244(2) and 275(1), the 6th Schedule empowers ADCs to govern and manage local affairs, ensuring autonomy and preserving tribal identity within their respective jurisdictions.

What is the 6th Schedule?

  • The 6th Schedule of the Indian Constitution delineates governance structures for specific regions, including Assam, Nagaland, Tripura, and Mizoram.
  • It establishes Autonomous Districts and Regions within these areas, granting them a level of self-governance to manage local affairs independently.
  • The state governor has authority to modify the names or jurisdictions of administrative councils within these regions, allowing flexibility to address local needs.
  • Aimed at preserving and promoting the distinct cultural identity of tribal communities, it safeguards their traditions and heritage.
  • By empowering local councils for self-governance, it fosters rationalism and administrative efficiency, promoting participatory decision-making.
  • ADCs serve as primary governing bodies within their respective autonomous districts, ensuring grassroots representation and administration.

Key articles and provisions associated with the 6th Schedule

  • Historical Context: Originating from the Government of India Act, 1935, it addresses the governance needs of primarily tribal areas in Assam.
  • Protection of Tribal Rights: It mandates the administration of tribal lands in Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura, and Mizoram to safeguard tribal interests.
  • Constitutional Provisions: Special provisions are enshrined in Article 244(2) and Article 275(1) of the Indian Constitution.
  • Autonomous District Councils (ADCs): These councils are empowered to enact laws on land, forestry, agriculture, inheritance, and the preservation of native customs and traditions.
  • Jurisdiction of ADCs: They have authority over various matters including taxation, land regulation, and local governance.
  • Independent Governance Structures: ADCs function as self-governing entities with separate branches for judiciary, legislature, and executive functions, tailored to tribal community needs.

Autonomous District Councils


  • Autonomous District Councils (ADCs) play a crucial role in the governance of indigenous communities in Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram, and Tripura. 
  • The constitution defines ADCs with varying levels of autonomy within the state assembly, empowering them to manage local affairs independently.
  • Governors of states under the 6th Schedule have the power to alter tribal area borders, including adding or removing territory, redrawing boundaries, and merging districts.
  • Governors can change titles of autonomous areas without requiring new legislation, providing flexibility in administrative arrangements.
  • Apart from ADCs, independent regions must have their unique Regional Councils, ensuring representation and governance at the local level.
  • Each autonomous district and regional council may comprise a maximum of thirty members, with four appointed by the governor and the rest elected for five-year terms.
  • The Bodoland Territorial Council can have up to 46 members, with 40 elected and six appointed by the governor, ensuring representation for underrepresented groups.
  • ADCs wield civil and judicial authority, including the establishment of village courts to resolve conflicts within their jurisdiction.
  • Governors designate the jurisdiction of high courts concerning matters within the purview of ADCs.
  • ADCs, with governor approval, can pass laws on various subjects such as public health, entertainment, social security, forestry, real estate, and fishing, enhancing their role in local governance and legislation.

Breakdown of the ADCs in each state:

    • Three ADCs represent indigenous groups: Dima Hasao ADC, Bodoland ADC, and Karbi Anglong Adhoc District Council.
    • Initially intended for autonomy, Assam's tribal regions were classified as excluded zones under the India Act of 1935, with direct governor authority.
    • Meghalaya hosts three autonomous district councils: Khasi Hills ADC, Garo Hills ADC, and Jaintia Hills ADC.
    • These ADCs serve indigenous communities and preserve their autonomy within the state.
    • Mizoram established autonomous district councils for the Lai, Chakma, and Mara communities to safeguard their autonomy.
    • These councils ensure local self-governance and address the specific needs of indigenous populations.
    • The Tripura Tribal Areas Autonomous District Council promotes the autonomy of indigenous and tribal populations in the state.
    • It focuses on preserving cultural identity and addressing community needs through self-governance initiatives.

Features of the 6th Schedule of the Indian Constitution

  • Autonomous Districts
    • Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura, and Mizoram have designated their tribal areas as autonomous districts.
    • Despite being autonomous, these districts remain under the executive jurisdiction of the respective states.
  • Creation of Autonomous Regions
    • Within an autonomous district, multiple autonomous regions can be established by the Governor, especially if the district comprises various tribes.
  • District Councils
    • Each Autonomous District must have a District Council, comprising a maximum of thirty members.
    • Four members are appointed by the Governor, while the rest are elected through adult suffrage.
  • Tenure of Members
    • Nominated members of the District Council serve at the pleasure of the Governor.
    • Elected members serve a term of five years, unless the council is dissolved earlier.
  • Regional Councils
    • Each autonomous area has its own Regional Council, indicating a unique administrative structure for each district.

Historical Background

The history of the 6th Schedule of the Indian Constitution is rooted in the aspirations of tribal communities in Assam, Meghalaya, Mizoram, and Tripura. 


  • Origins of the Demand: The need for the 6th Schedule arose from the perceived inadequacy of existing administrative structures, such as the Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council (LAHDC), in safeguarding tribal interests. These structures lacked sufficient legislative powers to address crucial issues like land rights, employment, and cultural preservation.
  • Granting of Legislative Powers: The 6th Schedule of the Indian Constitution was introduced to address these concerns by empowering tribal regions with legislative authority. It grants the State Governor the discretion to designate specific areas as Autonomous Districts and Autonomous Regions.
  • Governor's Authority: The Governor holds the authority to alter the names, boundaries, and territorial arrangements of these Autonomous Districts and Regions. This flexibility allows for tailored governance solutions that align with the unique needs and aspirations of local communities.
  • Exemption from Legislative Jurisdiction: Autonomous Districts and Regions enjoy certain exemptions from the jurisdiction of both Parliament and the State Legislature. While some laws may apply with modifications and exemptions, others may not apply at all, ensuring a degree of autonomy in legislative matters.
  • Establishment of Councils: The schedule provides for the establishment of district councils and regional councils within these autonomous areas. These councils are entrusted with specific legislative and judicial responsibilities, although their jurisdiction may be subject to limitations imposed by the relevant High Court.
  • Geographical Division: Initially divided into two sections, the 6th Schedule is now organized into four parts, encompassing a total of 10 autonomous regions. Each part corresponds to a specific state and includes districts designated as Autonomous Districts or Autonomous Regions
  • Geographical Divisions
    • Part I (Assam): Includes districts such as the North Cachar Hills District, Karbi Anglong District, and Bodoland Territorial Area District.
    • Part II (Meghalaya): Encompasses districts like the Khasi Hills, Jaintia Hills, and Garo Hills Districts.
    • Part II-A (Tripura): Designates the Tripura Tribal Areas District.
    • Part III (Mizoram): Covers districts including the Chakma, Mara, and Lai Districts.

Administrative functions granted to Tribal Areas under the 6th Schedule of the Indian Constitution

  • Legislative Functions
    • District Councils are empowered to enact ordinances pertaining to various domains such as land, forestry, agriculture, village governance, inheritance, marriage, divorce, and social customs.
    • All laws passed by District Councils require approval from the state governor before they become effective, ensuring compliance with broader legal frameworks.
  • Executive Functions
    • District Councils hold authority over planning, construction, and regulation of essential infrastructure including elementary schools, pharmacies, markets, cattle ponds, fisheries, roads, and waterways.
    • They also have jurisdiction to determine curriculum and language policies in primary schools, aligning educational initiatives with local needs and cultural contexts.
  • Judicial Functions
    • District and Regional Councils can establish Village and District Council Courts to adjudicate cases involving Scheduled Tribes and address local disputes.
    • However, decisions made by these Council Courts are subject to the jurisdiction of higher judicial bodies, namely the Supreme Court and High Courts, ensuring legal consistency and adherence to constitutional principles.
  • Financial Functions
    • Each Council has the authority to draft budgets, outlining financial allocations for developmental projects and public services within their respective jurisdictions.
    • They possess the power to levy taxes on businesses, trades, vehicles, goods, and services, as well as collect land revenue to fund local initiatives.
    • Additionally, Councils can grant leases or permits for mineral mining activities within their geographical boundaries, facilitating economic development and resource utilization.

Importance of the 6th Schedule of the Indian Constitution

  • Empowerment of Tribal Communities: The 6th Schedule grants tribes in Assam, Mizoram, Tripura, and Meghalaya the opportunity for self-governance and development. This empowers these communities to manage their local affairs according to their unique cultural, social, and economic needs.
  • Preservation of Tribal Identity: Tribal communities often have distinct cultural traditions and ways of life that differ from the mainstream population. The 6th Schedule acknowledges and preserves this tribal identity by providing autonomy and authority over their lands and resources, ensuring that they can maintain their customs and heritage.
  • Promotion of Socio-economic Development: By granting tribes control over their local governance and resources, the 6th Schedule facilitates socio-economic development within tribal areas. This enables communities to address their specific developmental challenges, improve infrastructure, and enhance livelihood opportunities.
  • Protection of Tribal Lands: The Schedule safeguards tribal lands and natural resources from exploitation by external entities. Tribal communities retain ownership and control over their territories, reducing the risk of land alienation and ensuring sustainable use of resources for future generations.
  • Fostering of Inclusive Governance: The 6th Schedule promotes inclusive governance by recognizing the diversity of India's population and providing mechanisms for decentralized decision-making. It ensures that tribal voices are heard in matters that affect their lives, contributing to a more equitable and participatory democracy.

Significant issues of the 6th Schedule of the Indian Constitution

  • Contravention of Constitutional Values: Critics argue that the provisions of the 6th Schedule conflict with the fundamental principles enshrined in the Constitution, such as equality, non-discrimination, and freedom of movement.
  • Discrimination Against Non-Tribal Residents: Some perceive the 6th Schedule as discriminatory towards non-tribal citizens residing in the states covered by its provisions. This perception arises from the special privileges and autonomy granted exclusively to tribal communities, potentially marginalizing other residents.
  • Violation of Fundamental Rights: The Schedule has been criticized for infringing upon various fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution, including equality before the law (Article 14), protection against discrimination (Article 15), and the freedom to settle anywhere in India (Article 19).
  • Debate and Controversy: The contentious nature of the 6th Schedule has made it a subject of ongoing debate and controversy. Scholars, policymakers, and activists continue to discuss its implications for governance, rights, and social harmony.
  • Social Unrest and Conflict: The implementation of the 6th Schedule has, at times, led to tensions and conflicts between tribal and non-tribal populations in the affected states. Instances of unrest and uprisings have occurred due to perceived injustices or grievances related to the Schedule's provisions.
  • Power Struggles: The coexistence of multiple power centers, including state legislatures and Autonomous District Councils, has often resulted in power struggles and conflicts over jurisdiction and authority. This has led to challenges in governance and decision-making processes within the states covered by the 6th Schedule.


The 6th Schedule of the Indian Constitution serves as a vital mechanism for empowering tribal communities and preserving their cultural identity, it also faces significant challenges and criticisms. Despite its intention to promote autonomy and inclusive governance, the Schedule has been accused of contravening constitutional values, discriminating against non-tribal residents, and violating fundamental rights. Ongoing debates and controversies surrounding its implementation highlight the need for nuanced reforms to address the concerns of all stakeholders. Moreover, issues such as social unrest, conflicts, and power struggles underscore the complexities inherent in balancing autonomy with broader constitutional principles of equality and non-discrimination. Ultimately, a comprehensive review and dialogue are essential to ensure that the 6th Schedule continues to serve its intended purpose while upholding constitutional values and promoting social harmony.