Lok Sabha clears Bill, restores states’ powers of to make their own OBC lists

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Lok Sabha on Tuesday (August 10) passed a constitutional amendment bill to restore the powers of the states to make their own OBC lists, with 385 members voting in its favour and no member opposing it. Some amendments moved by opposition members were rejected by the House. A constitutional amendment bill requires a special majority for passage in both Houses of Parliament.

There should be a majority of the total membership of the House and a majority of not less than two-thirds of the members of that House present and voting.

Replying to the debate on the bill, Social Justice and Empowerment Minister Virendra Kumar said the bill seeks to clarify that the state government and Union territories are empowered to prepare and maintain their own list of SEBCs. 

The division took place through voting slips as the House has a special seating arrangement as part of precautions against COVID-19 and the automatic vote recorder could not be used. 

The process of providing voting slips to members and collecting them took time. Responding to the demands for increasing reservation beyond 50 per cent, the minister said the government understands the feelings of members. He said the courts have repeatedly emphasised this ceiling and there is a need to give attention to the constitutional aspects. The bill was passed by a majority of the total membership of the House and by a majority of not less than two-thirds of the members of that House present and voting. 

The Parliament had in August 2018 passed a constitution amendment bill to give constitutional status to National Commission for Backward Classes. Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury initiated the discussion on the bill and alleged that the government has brought it with an eye on the assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand early next year. He said if the government had heeded to opposition suggestions when Constitution (One Hundred and Second Amendment) Bill, 2018 was passed, there would have been no need to bring this bill now. 

The Congress leader said that the party has always been at the forefront of the uplifting OBC community. He said several countries had started a probe into alleged surveillance concerning Pegasus spyware and accused the government of “running away from a debate”. 

The statement of objects and reasons of the bill states that there always existed separate lists of Central Government and that of the state governments and Union territories pertaining to SEBCs since 1993.It said that a question has arisen after enactment of the Constitution (One Hundred and Second Amendment) Act, 2018 as to whether the amendments mandated for a single Central List of SEBCs specifying the SEBCs for each state and had taken away the powers of the states to prepare and maintain a separate state list. 

(With Agency inputs)

 

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