States’ powers for own OBC list to be restored

New Delhi: The Union government on Monday introduced the Constitution (127th Amendment) Bill, 2021, in Lok Sabha to clarify provisions in the 102nd Constitutional Amendment Bill and restore the power of states to have their own lists of Backward Classes so that they can be provided with reservation benefits. The Bill is being supported by all political parties and the Opposition, including the Congress, has assured smooth passage of this proposed legislation.

“All leaders of various parties will support this Bill, and we want this Bill being introduced today to be passed immediately after a discussion on it," Leader of Opposition in Rajya Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge said before the House proceedings in Lok Sabha began.

He added that it has happened in the past when a Bill was brought for providing reservation to the economically weaker sections it was supported by the Opposition. "We will peacefully support this Bill. This issue is in the interest of backward classes and the country," Mr Kharge said.

The Opposition parties had accused the Centre of assaulting the federal structure by taking away the power of the states to identify and list the Other Backward Classes (OBCs). The Bill was necessitated after the Supreme Court had dismissed the Centre's plea seeking a review of its May 5 majority verdict which held that the 102nd Constitution amendment took away the states' power to notify socially and educationally backward classes for the grant of quota in jobs and admissions.

While introducing the Bill, social justice and empowerment minister Virendra Kumar said in order to adequately clarify that the states and Union Territories are empowered to prepare and maintain their own list of SEBCs (Socially and Educationally Backward Classes) and with a view to maintain the federal structure of this country, there is a need to amend Article 342A and make consequential amendments in Articles 338B and 366 of the Constitution.

The 102nd Constitution Amendment Act of 2018 inserted Articles 338B, which deals with the structure, duties and powers of the National Commission for Backward Classes, and 342A that deals with the powers of the president to notify a particular caste as an SEBC and the power of Parliament to change the list. Article 366 (26C) defines SEBCs.

On May 5, the Supreme Court had dismissed the Centre's plea seeking a review of its May 5 majority verdict which held that the 102nd Constitution amendment took away the States' power to notify SEBCs for the grant of quota in jobs and admissions. A five-judge Constitution bench, headed by Justice Ashok Bhushan, had unanimously set aside a Maharashtra law granting quota to Marathas and refused to refer the 1992 Mandal verdict that put a 50-per cent cap on reservation to a larger bench.

Earlier on Monday morning, former Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis met Union home minister Amit Shah requesting him for the passage of this Bill in the ongoing session of Parliament.

Mr Fadnavis faulted the Maharashtra government's handling of the legal challenge to the state's move to provide reservation to the Marathas, saying it was found wanting in defending the decision in the Supreme Court which had quashed the quota order for the politically and socially powerful caste in the state. When asked about Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray's reported call that the current 50 per cent ceiling on quota be removed so that Marathas can be given reservation, Mr Fadnavis accused the Shiv Sena leader of shying away from his responsibility and said his demand and the Bill are two completely unrelated issues.



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