Times of India, July 21, 2017
Addressing apprehensions expressed by opposition that a constitutional amendment bill to accord constitutional status to the National Commission for Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (NSEBC) would weaken the powers of the state governments in identifying backward classes, the centre in its select committee report has said that the ultimate power for such inclusion/exclusion “would stand vested with Parliament“ and that “the bill does not affect or alter in any way the present powers or functions of the State Backward Classes Commissions.“
A Rajya Sabha select committee headed by BJP general secretary Bhupender Yadav and comprising 24 other members has approved the bill in its current form with a few minor changes, after seven meetings starting from April 17, 2017.
In its report submitted to the house on Wednesday it has clearly stated that “the setting up of the proposed Commission will not be retrograde to the interest of the socially and educationally backward classes and the amendments will provide for a comprehensive examination of each case of inclusion/exclusion from the central list.“
Incidentally, the Bill was passed by the Lok Sabha in the Budget session of Parliament, but got stuck in the Rajya Sabha after the Opposition sought that it be referred to the select committee. Official sources point out this the second time that the government has successfully managed to convince the opposition to help pass a constitutional amendment bill, after GST.
To make it as consultative as possible, Yadav said the committee had taken views of all State Governments and Union territories on the Bill, received 72 memoranda from the public on the provisions of the Bill and had held meetings with caste and community experts and officials from six ministries. The deliberations of the select committee revolved around “what would be the status of the State Backward Classes Commissions after the bill, what would be the status of the existing list of OBCs and what would be the role of the Governor in deciding about the inclusion or exclusion of classes in the OBC list.“
Bhupendra Yadav said that it was now after 60 years that a government at the centre had finally managed to put together the amendments. “For the empowerment of the backward classes the earlier governments brought out Kaka Kalelkar commission report but did nothing about it. Then the Mandal report came out and VP Singh’s government brought out an official memorandum but it was challenged in the Supreme Court. It was then in the Indira Sawhney case that the court observed that we need a permanent body that looks at grievances of the backward classes. An OBC forum in Parliament was formed but it noted that the 93 act too needed constitutional teeth. “
The bill now will insert clause 338B for establishing such a constitutional body following Articles 338 (National Commissions for SCs) and 338A (National Commission for STs).
Yadav added that it was merely a mispropaganda that the proposed OBC Commission will interfere with the rights of the States. “The sub-clause (9) of article 338B does not in any way interfere with the powers of the State Governments to prepare their own list. The amendment does not affect or alter in any way the present powers or functions of the State Backward Classes Commissions and their powers for exclusion or inclusion of backward classes in the State Backward classes list shall remain unchanged, “he added.
The report also says that on the insistence of some members a clause was added to specify that when it comes to socially and educationally backward classes from a particular state, the President can recommend their inclusion in the central list “only with prior recommendation of the state government“.