Normative Deficit and The Failure of Law: Study of The Criminal Tribes Act, 1911

Tejasvi Purusharth,
Swagata Naik
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Any legislation endeavours to fulfill the objectives of justice and equity. Any law which in its very inception defeats these twin goals by unjustly segregating a group of people and subsequently violating their basic human rights cannot be called anything short of a failure. Discrimination sanctioned and in fact perpetrated by the state acquires greater repugnance and notoriety.
A law more often than not fails either due to normative or an implementation deficit. An implementation deficit is the defective functioning or implementation of a law. A normative deficit however is a defect in the formulation and conception of the law itself thereby exposing an obnoxious and discriminatory mindset practiced by a society at a particular point of time.
The purpose of the paper is to illustrate the operation of such a normative deficit in the context of certain tribes in India. The notification of certain tribes in India as criminal by the Criminal Tribes Act of 1871 and subsequently 1911 explicitly illustrates such a normative deficit in the conception of a law which facilitated discrimination by the colonial government in India.
The purpose of the said Act was "to ensure peace, law and order" by bringing under "effective control anti-social elements chronically addicted to criminal activities”. Analysts and psychologists across the globe have supported the claim that criminality is not embedded in human nature as an essential trait which in effect means that the very purpose of the law in assuming that certain groups of people can be addicted to crime is faulty.
Though the colonial Act has been repealed the mentality still persists and the discrimination is more rampant and shameful as has been seen in the persecution suffered by the Kurava tribes in the state of Tamil Nadu in Southern India.
The paper does not discuss the consequences and the atrocities committed as an aftermath of this legislation. It tries to shed light on the faults in formulation of the Act itself and how the very identification in itself of these tribes as criminal is a violation of basic human dignity. It focuses on how such segregation leads to such grave stigmatization that even after the repeal and denotification, any articulation of the tribes’ demands may itself become a branding of sorts. The paper would thus try to show how the conception of the Act has led to a vicious circle of disarticulation due to the notification- annihilation of the groups’ identity- identification of the groups’ problem- expression of demands as a vulnerable group – stigmatization- disarticulation.

Keywords: Criminal Tribes Act, Normative deficit in law
Stream: First Nations and Indigenous Peoples
Presentation Type: Virtual Presentation in English
Paper: Normative Deficit and The Failure of Law

Tejasvi Purusharth

student, NALSAR University of Law
Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh, India

Swagata Naik

student, NALSAR University of Law
Hyderabad, Andhra Pradesh, India

Ref: H06P0476