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  • Writer's pictureSOURABH GANPATYE

What is the Constitution (127th) Amendment Bill, 2021?

The Parliament of India, on August 10, passed after a heated discussion that lasted for almostsix hours.

The Bill is to restore the powers of states to notify backward classes. It received Opposition’s support, in a rare display of unity.

The Opposition parties decided to cooperate with the government in passing the Bill and suspended their protest till it was passed in the Lower House.

What is the Constitution (127th) Amendment Bill, 2021?

The 102nd Amendment had centralised the power to declare certain community as backward class with the Union.

Hence the 127th amendment Bill seeks to clarify “some provisions in the 102nd Constitutional amendment” to restore the power of the states and union territories to to prepare their own list of socially and educationally backward classes (SEBC).

The Amendment Bill amends Articles 342 A (clauses 1 and 2). It will introduce a new 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). The states will thus be able to directly notify SEBCs without having to refer to the National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC).

Why is the Bill needed?

The amendment was important after the Supreme Court, in its Maratha reservation ruling in May, upheld the 102nd Constitutional Amendment Act.

The Apex Court said the President, based on the recommendations of the NCBC, would determine which communities would be included on the State OBC list.

The 102nd Constitution Amendment Act of 2018 gave constitutional status to the NCBC. Itempowered the President to notify the list SEBCs for any state or union territory.

The 2021 Bill, however, amends this to provide that the President may notify the list of socially and educationally backward classes only of the central government.

Thus the amendment Bill bypasses the SC ruling and restores the powers of the state governments to maintain a state list of OBCs.

Why has Opposition supported it?

The Bill has political ramifications as restoring powers of the states to identify backward classes has been a demand by many regional parties and even the ruling party’s OBC leaders.

The BJP, and the Opposition parties, including the Congress, want to get support among the OBC communities in the poll-bound states, especially in the politically crucial Uttar Pradesh.

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