Govt introduces Constitution amendment bill in LS to restore states’ rights on OBC list

The Constitution amendment bill aims to give states the power to make their own list of SEBCs (Socially and Educationally Backward Classes) with a view to maintain the federal structure of the country.

New Delhi:┬áSocial Justice and Empowerment Minister Virendra Kumar introduced the Constitution (127th Amendment) Bill, 2021 in the Lok Sabha on Monday. The bill seeks to restore the states’ power to make their own OBC lists.

In the statement of objects and reasons, 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.

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The Supreme Court has dismissed the Centre’s plea seeking a review of its May 5 majority verdict that held that the 102nd Constitution amendment took away the states’ power to notify SEBCs for the grant of quota in jobs and admissions.

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).

However, Kumar told the Rajya Sabha last month that the government is in consultation with legal experts and the Ministry of Law and examining ways to protect the power of the states in determining the state lists of OBCs.

On May 5, a five-judge Constitution bench of the Supreme Court, 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.

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