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Cabinet passes Bill restoring power of states/UTs to make their own OBC lists

  • Category
    Polity & Governance
  • Published
    10th Aug, 2021

Context

In a recent development, the Union Cabinet has cleared a Constitution amendment bill which seeks to give power to states and UTs to make their own OBC lists.

Background

  • In May this year, the Supreme Court gave its landmark verdict which held that the 102nd Constitution amendment took away states’ power to declare Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (SEBC) for grant of quota in jobs and admissions.
  • The Centre sought review of the judgment which was later dismissed by the apex court.
  • This latest decision to bring the 127th Constitution Amendment Bill 2021 comes months before crucial polls in five states, including Uttar Pradesh, where other backward caste (OBC) groups hold sway. 
  • The Union government also accepted a longstanding demand to introduce 27% reservation for OBC in medical and dental courses.

Analysis

What is in the Bill?

  • The bill will be the Constitutional 127th Amendment Bill.
  • It will amend Articles 342 A and introduces clause 342 A (3) that will specifically authorize states to maintain their State List.
    • Seventh Schedule of Indian constitution: There are three lists—Union, concurrent and state.
    • Respective state governments have exclusive power to legislate on matters relating to items listed in the State list.
  • Besides, there will be an amendment in 
    • Article 366(26C) 
    • Article 338B (9)

How a Constitutional amendment Bill is passed?

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.

Core objective of the Bill

  • After this Bill, States will be able to directly notify OBC and SEBCs without referring to the NCBC.

Need of the Bill

  • The bill will give clarity to the 102nd constitutional amendment that had created confusion in a state and Central list, and this clause will clarify it.

102nd Constitution Amendment Act

  • 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, while 342A deals with powers of the President to notify a particular caste as SEBC and power of Parliament to change the list.

Will this Bill have any impact on the Maratha quota?

  • This Bill is said to be in response to the dismissal of law on the Maratha quota by the SC.
  • In the Maratha reservation judgment, the apex court dismissed the Maratha Quota law by citing the 102nd amendment of the Constitution that had scrapped the power of the states to identify and notify socially and educationally backward classes.

Reservation in India 

  • The current scenario of reservation in India:
  • Today 50% of seats in government-aided educational institutions and public jobs are reserved for the SC, ST and, OBCs.
  • The Central Government of India reserves 27% of higher education, and individual states may legislate further reservations. 
  • The current scenario of Reservation in India is:
    • 15% seats are reserved for Scheduled Castes (SC)
    • 5% seats are reserved for Schedule tribes (ST)
    • 27% seats are reserved for other backward classes (OBC)

Total constitutional reservation percentage is 49.5% and the rest 50.5% seats are open to all i.e. general, SC, ST and OBC.

OBCs in India:

  • OBC is an umbrella term used for a range of castes and communities that are socially and economically disadvantaged.
  • Currently, there is no updated census on the population of OBCs. There is only a caste data census (1931) before independence as the basis of population share of the sub-castes within OBCs.
  • The next census, in 2021, is slated to count OBCs for the first time in 90 years.
  • Reservation for OBCs, unlike that for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, was not initially guaranteed in the Constitution and extends only to jobs and education, not to elected representatives.
  • It draws its roots from the Mandal Commission
    • The Commission was set up in 1979.
    • Its recommendation for 27% OBC quota accepted by the central government in 1990.
  • In 2006, the reservation was extended to institutions of higher education.

Conclusion

The Bill is becomes an Act will restore the rights of states to identify the OBCs for the “state list” of castes eligible for Mandal reservation in education and employment under state governments.

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