Salient Provisions of Census Act 1948

Earliest reference to Census in India comes from Kautilya’s Arthashashtra. In Mughal period, writings of Abul Fazal in Ain-e-Akbari also give reference to the census.

First Census

  • During British Era, first census was conducted non-synchronously in 1965, the efforts culminated in 1872 and thus, the 1872 Census is called first Census of India. First synchronous census was carried out in 1881. Since then, Census in India is carried out every 10 years. Census 2011 was the latest and fifteenth Census in this continuous series from 1872. It was seventh since Independence.
  • Indian population census organisation is considered as the largest administrative network in the world.

Census Act Provisions

In India, the population census is a Union subject (Article 246) and is listed at serial number 69 of the seventh schedule of the constitution. The Census Act 1948 forms the legal basis for conduct  of census in independent India. Although the Census Act is an instrument of Central legislation, in the scheme of its execution,  state  hierarchy is setup at all levels by State Governments for the purpose of carrying out census.

  • Census Act 1948 gives necessary authority to the Census Organization to access to households and canvass the prescribed questionnaires and to expect the people to answer truthfully. This act empowers Central Government to notify the date for the census and to appoint a Census Commissioner and Superintendents of Census Operations in States.
  • The Act enjoins upon every citizen to assist in the taking of census. The law makes it obligatory on the part of every citizen to answer the census question truthfully.
  • The Act provides penalties for giving false answer or not giving answers at all to the census questionnaire.
  • The law calls upon the census officers to discharge their duties faithfully and warns them against putting any question to a person which is not covered by the questionnaire and they are required to record the answers as given by the person enumerated.
  • One of the most important provision of the Census Act 1948 is that it makes provisions for the maintenance of secrecy of the information collected at the census of each individual.
  • The Act requires strict secrecy to be maintained about the individual’s record which should not be used for any purpose against the individual except for an offence in connection with the census itself.
  • The census records are not open to inspection and also not admissible in evidence. The answers ascertained at the census can be used only for statistical purposes in which the individual data get submerged.
  • Services of teachers can be used for works of national importance like Census, disaster relief, elections etc. (as per RTE section 27)
  • Section 27 of the Right to Education makes it obligatory for the teachers to be deployed in Census, disaster relief duties etc.
  • Census Records Can NOT be used as evidence in any civil proceeding or criminal proceeding other than a prosecution under the Census act itself.

Operational Unit of enumeration is Household on individual

  • The Census aims at enumerating every individual. But the operational unit is not the Individual but the household. A household is generally understood as a group of persons commonly living together and partaking of food from the same kitchen. There may be one or more than one households sharing one house. The census officers are trained and mandated to clearly locate every house and household(s) therein.
  • For the census purpose, the country is divided into states and sub-divided into districts and further sub-divided into sub-districts, sub-divisions, taluks etc. The smallest unit of administration will ultimately be a village or a town.

Census Organization

  • Census Organisation under the Union Home Ministry has been functioning on permanent footing ever since 1961 and provides a vital continuity to conceive, plan and implement the programme of census taking in country. The Organisation headed by the Registrar General and Census Commissioner, India has field offices in thirty three States and Union territories. These are permanent Directorates headed by the Directors of Census Operations, who are mainly responsible for the conduct of census in their respective jurisdiction.
  • The states appoint State Co-ordinators for furthering co-ordination between the Directorate, Government of India and the State Government. Deputy Commissioners under the guidance of Divisional Commissioners function as Divisional Census Officers at the Division level in states. District Collectors as Principal Census Officers are responsible for the census work in their respective districts.

Objective of conducting a Census

  • India is a welfare State. Since independence, Five Year Plans, Annual Plans and various welfare schemes have been launched for the benefit of the common man. All these require information at the grass root level. This information is provided by the Census. Census is the basis of how the number of seats in Parliamentary/Assembly Constituencies, Panchayats and other local bodies are determined. Similarly, Census helps on how the boundaries of such constituencies are demarcated. Census provides information on a large number of areas.
  • House listing and Housing Census has immense utility as it provides comprehensive data on the conditions of human settlements, housing deficit and consequently a wide range of data on amenities and assets available to the households, information much needed by various departments of the Union and State Governments and other non Governmental agencies for development and planning at the local level as well as the State level. This would also provide the base for Population Enumeration.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *