The Government will bring a Bill to Parliament next week to clarify “some provisions in the 102nd Constitutional amendment Bill” to restore the power of the states to identify backward classes — a demand made by a number of regional parties and even the ruling party’s own OBC leaders.
The Constitutional 127th Amendment Bill will amend Articles 342 A — clauses 1 and 2 — and will introduce clause 342 A (3) specifically authorising states to maintain their State List. There will be a consequential amendment in Articles 366(26C) and 338B (9). States will then be able to directly notify OBC and SEBCs without having to refer to the NCBC.
“There has been some confusion about what comprises a state and Central list, and this clause will clarify that,” said ministry sources.
“The cabinet has cleared the amendments and a Bill will be brought to Parliament next week. This is to give clarity to the 102nd constitutional amendment,” said a Union minister.
Asked if the government is optimistic about getting the Bill, a constitutional amendment, passed in Parliament amid the ruckus, the minister said, “We will be doing it in the proper way. All the formalities will be fulfilled.”
A constitutional amendment Bill must be passed in each House by a majority of the total membership of that House and by a majority of not less than two-thirds of the members of that House present and voting.
The Centre had earlier moved a review petition in the Supreme Court challenging the court’s interpretation of the 102nd amendment of the Constitution in the Maratha reservation judgment that had scrapped the power of the states to identify and notify socially and educationally backward classes.
The Indian Express on July 30 reported that the government was expected to bring in an amendment seeking to give powers to the states to identify the socially and educationally backward classes – a demand made by representatives of the OBC community.
The BJP leaders had clarified that the amendment that gave powers to the President to notify socially and educationally backward classes (SEBC) and Parliament the power to change the SEBC list was not to take away the powers of the state, but just fulfilling a long-held demand for constitutional status to the National Commission on Backward Classes (NCBC).
On May 5, while scrapping the quota for Marathas in Maharashtra, the apex court had ruled that after the 102nd amendment to the Constitution made in 2018, only the Centre can notify socially and educationally backward classes, not the states.
The move is politically significant as the BJP is banking heavily on OBC votes in key states that go to polls next year. The BJP wants to see that its support among the OBC communities stays intact, especially in the politically crucial Uttar Pradesh. With the weakening of the Congress and the BSP in Uttar Pradesh, the BJP strategists fear that the Samajwadi Party could bag a section of the OBC votes and consolidate the minority votes.
“The status of Central list of OBCs has been elevated by giving constitutional status to the list. It has given powers to the Parliament to make changes in the Central OBC list. The Constitution
(102nd) Amendment Act, 2018 has given constitutional status to the National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC). With this, NCBC gets powers to examine the grievances in implementation of the various welfare schemes meant for OBCs. Yesterday’s approval for introduction of the Constitution (127) Amendment Bill 2021 is in continuation of these efforts. The Amendment is found necessary to restore the powers of the state governments to maintain state list of OBCs which was taken away by a Supreme Court interpretation,” said a ministry official.
If the state list was abolished, nearly 671 OBC communities would have lost access to reservation in educational institutions and in appointments. That would have adversely impacted nearly one-fifth of the total OBC communities.
“Besides India has a federal structure and to maintain that structure, this amendment was essential. We cannot have such Central oversight. It allows states to respond to socio-economic requirements which are specific to a state or region, faster,” said an official.