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The Census Act was enacted by the Government of India on September 3, 1948 to deal with the legal principles governing the taking of census. The application of the Act extends to the Indian Territory as a whole including the State of Jammu and Kashmir. The Act defines the term ‘premises’ as any land, structure or portion of a structure which consists of a hut, shed, or any other construction or its portion. The Act explains the meaning of ‘vehicle’ as any means of transportation used for the point of road transport whether boosted with the help of mechanical engine or otherwise.

The Criminal Procedure Code, 1973, the Indian Penal Code, 1860 and the Indian Evidence Act, 1872 referred under the present Act with regard to the State of Jammu and Kashmir shall be interpreted as an indication to the corresponding legislation prevalent in the State of Jammu and Kashmir. The Act empowers the Central government to proclaim its desire to take census in the entire Indian Territory or any portion of the nation where the Act applies and when the Government considers it expedient and advantageous to take census by notifying in the Gazette of India.

The Central government is authorized under the Act to appoint an officer as the Census Commissioner to administer the taking of census in the intended areas and shall also appoint Directors of Census Operations to manage the taking of census where it is to be taken in more than one State. In addition, the Central Government is entrusted with the power to appoint Census officers with the qualifications prescribed by the Government. The duty of the census officer shall be to take, assist or manage the taking of census in any local area as provided and the persons appointed as officers shall fulfill the duties as imposed.

For the purpose of evidence of appointment, a statement shall be prepared in the written form which is signed by the authority empowered by the State Government. The declaration shall contain that a person has been appointed as the census officer in the prescribed area. The State Government shall also delegate the authority to appoint census officer to any other officer provided under the Act. The local authority is under an obligation to provide necessary staff to discharge the duties to conduct census when a written direction is issued by the Central Government or any authority authorized by the Central government to the Director of Census Operations. The Commissioner of Census, Directors of Census Operations and the Census Officers shall be considered as public servants according to the provisions of the Indian Penal Code.

The District Magistrate or any official authorized by the State Government shall impose duties of the census officer to certain other officials who are under the command of such Magistrate or authority by a written order:

  • Officers under the command of army, navy or air force;
  • Persons having control of a vessel;
  • Persons under responsibility of an asylum, prison, hospital charitable trust, religious institutions, educational establishments etc;
  • Manager or Secretary of a hotel, hostel, boarding house, club, storehouse etc;
  • Railway officers or managers of any industrial enterprises;
  • Resident of immovable property.

The provisions of the legislation relating to the census officers shall have application to all other officers while discharging the functions of the census officer and the persons who decline or disregard the duties shall be punished according to the Indian Penal Code. For the purpose of taking census the Central government shall demand for any premises or motor vehicles and make directions or orders in this connection. The Census Act penalizes the census officers and other person who willfully neglects to commit the duties entrusted under the Act in relation to taking census.

The Census Act, 1948 was first amended in 1950 and thereafter in 1959. It was further modified by enacting The Census Amendment Act in 1993.