Article 244 in Part X of the Constitution envisages a special system of administration for certain areas designated as ‘scheduled areas’ and ‘tribal areas’. The Fifth Schedule of the Constitution deals with the administration and control of scheduled areas and scheduled tribes in any state except the four states of Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram1.
The Sixth Schedule of the Constitution, on the other hand, deals with the administration of the tribal areas in the four northeastern states of Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram.
The Fifth Schedule of the Constitution deals with the administration and control of Scheduled Areas as well as of Scheduled Tribes in States other than Assam, Meghalaya and Tripura. The main features of the administration provided in this Schedule are as follows:
• The Executive power of the Union shall extend to giving directions to the respective States regarding the administration of the Scheduled Areas.
• The Governors of the State in which there are “Scheduled areas” have to submit reports to the President regarding the administration of such Areas, annually or whenever required by the President.
• Tribes Advisory Councils are to be constituted to give advice on such matters as welfare and advancement of the Scheduled Tribes.
• The Governor is authorised to direct that any particular Act of Parliament or of the Legislature of the State shall not apply to a Scheduled Area or shall apply, only subject to exceptions or modifications. The Governor is also authorised to make regulations to prohibit or restrict the transfer of land by, or among members of the Scheduled Tribes.
• The Governor may make regulations for the peace and good government of any area in a State which is for the time being a Scheduled Area.
• These provisions of the Constitution relating to the administration of the Scheduled Areas and Tribes may be altered by Parliament or by ordinary legislation.
• The Constitution provides for the appointment of a Commission to report on the administration of the Scheduled Areas and the welfare of the Scheduled Tribes in the States.
• The President may appoint such Commission at any time, but the appointment of such Commission at the end of 10 years from the commencement of the Constitution was obligatory.
The tribal areas in the States of Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram are separately dealt with and provisions for their administration are to be found in the Sixth Schedule to the Constitution.
Salient provisions are:
• The governor is empowered to organise and re-organise the autonomous districts. Thus, he can increase or decrease their areas or change their names or define their boundaries and so on.
• If there are different tribes in an autonomous district, the governor can divide the district into several autonomous regions.
• Each autonomous district has a district council consisting of 30 members, of whom four are nominated by the governor and the remaining 26 are elected on the basis of adult franchise. The elected members hold office for a term of five years (unless the council is dissolved earlier) and nominated members hold office during the pleasure of the governor. Each autonomous region also has a separate regional council.
• The district and regional councils administer the areas under their jurisdiction. They can make laws on certain specified matters like land, forests, canal water, shifting cultivation, village administration, inheritance of property, marriage and divorce, social customs and so on. But all such laws require the assent of the governnor.
• The district and regional councils within their territorial jurisdictions can constitute village councils or courts for trial of suits and cases between the tribes. They hear appeals from them. The jurisdiction of high court over these suits and cases is specified by the governor.
• The district council can establish, construct or manage primary schools, dispensaries, markets, ferries, fisheries, roads and so on in the district. It can also make regulations for the control of money lending and trading by non-tribals. But, such regulations require the assent of the governor.
• The district and regional councils are empowered to assess and collect land revenue and to impose certain specified taxes.
• The acts of Parliament or the state legislature do not apply to autonomous districts and autonomous regions or apply with specified modifications and exceptions5.
• The governor can appoint a commission to examine and report on any matter relating to the administration of the autonomous districts or regions. He may dissolve a district or regional council on the recommendation of the commission.