Laws on Tribes
Following the devastation and uproar that resulted from the First War of Independence (Revolt of
1857), the British sought to enact legislation that would separate Indians along the lines of caste and
religious identities in order to prevent a repeat of the previous uprising from occurring.
Many pieces of legislation were introduced and grouped together under the umbrella term "Criminal
Tribes Act," which prohibited entire communities by classifying them as serial offenders over the
course of several years after the first act was enacted. This was a sign that they posed a threat to
both society and the state in terms of law and order. "People have pursued work roles designated by
the caste system since the beginning of time: weaving, carpentry, and other such occupations were
passed down through families. As a result, there must have been hereditary criminals who followed
in the footsteps of their forebears "T. V. Stephens, a British official, offered the reason for his
actions. Tribes that had been designated as "Criminal Tribes" by the government were subjected to
unprecedented levels of control and supervision under the Criminal Tribes Act. Approximately 250
castes were notified and brought under the purview of this ordinance.
A number of castes and tribes were categorised as Criminal Tribes under the Act, based on the
perception that they possessed criminal proclivities. Therefore, everybody born in these areas across
the subcontinent was deemed to be a born criminal, regardless of whether or not they had prior
criminal convictions. This granted the police sweeping authority to detain them, manage them, and
monitor their movements throughout the city.
Once a tribe has been legally recognised, its members have no legal recourse to have such notices
revoked under the jurisdiction of the courts. From that point on, their movements were supervised
through a system of mandatory registration and passes, which stated where the holders might travel
and dwell, and district judges were obligated to keep records of those who fell under this category.
Many of these tribes were established in villages under the supervision of police officers, whose job
it was to guarantee that no member of the tribe was absent without permission. Eunuchs, a third-
gender community, were not exempt from this punitive regulation, which colonisers justified by
claiming that they were responsible for kidnapping, castration, and a variety of other immoral
behaviours that were having a negative impact on the society at the time.
After several amendments were made to this act over the years, the Act gained extensive powers,
some of which were as draconian as separating a six-year-old child from his or her parents who were
classified as "Criminal Tribes," and was eventually applied to the entire country, further tormenting
The Indian government overturned this draconian act in 1949, which resulted in the
decriminalisation of 2,300,000 Tribals. The consequences of this repeal have continued to this day. A
committee, appointed by the central government the same year, investigated the necessity of the
existence of this statute and concluded that it was in violation of the basic spirit of the Indian
constitution, according to the committee's findings. After this decision was made, it is said that there
was an increase in crime, which sparked widespread outrage among the general population. To
combat habitual criminality in India, in 1952, the Indian government promulgated the Habitual
Offenders Act, which defined a habitual offender as someone who has been a victim of subjective
and objective influences and has manifested a set practise in criminal activity, as well as someone
who is a danger to society.
Nonetheless, this act is seen to be a simple extension of the very legislation that it was intended to
replace, and the Tribes that were decriminalised were relocated to a category known as De-Notified
Tribes as a result of the decriminalisation (DNT). Prejudices, conceptions, and animosity, which had
been ingrained in the minds of the people against DNTs, have withstood the test of time and remain
entrenched in our collective consciousness. Many of these tribes continue to suffer significant
societal repercussions as a result of the Act, which was later brought under the purview of the
'Prevention of Anti-Social Activity Act' (PASA).
The majority of them have been denied the status of Scheduled Castes (SC), Scheduled Tribes (ST), or
Other Backward Classes (OBC), which would have otherwise allowed them to benefit from the
benefits of reservation under Indian law, as a result of which seats are reserved for them in
government jobs and educational institutions, as well as other benefits.
Since its passage, the criminal recognition accorded to certain tribes as a result of the Act has not
only been internalised by society, but has also been internalised and documented by the police
forces, whose official methodology, even after the repeal of the Act, has frequently been reflected in
the characteristics of manifestation of an age initiated by the Act, where characteristics of a crime
committed by certain tribes were carefully studied and later documented. The De-Notified and
Nomadic Tribes, a socioeconomic category of 60 million people in India, continue to be marginalised
by the general public and have limited access to educational opportunities, healthcare, government
schemes, housing, legal rights and a variety of other benefits.
This recommendation was made by the National Commission for De-Notified, Nomadic, and Semi-
Nomadic Tribes (NCDNSNT), which is part of the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, in
2008, and was endorsed by the Supreme Court. Similar reservations were also made available to SCs
and STs at the time. However, nothing was done about it. In addition, the commission suggested
that the provisions of the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989 be extended to these tribes as a
result of the recommendations of the commission. The betterment of these De-Notified tribes is
being pursued by a large number of governmental and non-governmental organisations through a
variety of schemes and educational initiatives today.