Constitutional Status to National Commission for Backward Classes #48

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'The 123rd constitutional amendment bill provides constitutional status to the NCBC'. Critically analyze.

Syllabus: GS 2- Constitutional bodies

In News: Parliament passed a bill to provide constitutional status to the National Commission for Backward Classes.

The demand was raised during a debate on the Constitution (123rd Amendment) Bill 2017 in the Upper House, which was passed by the Lok Sabha superseding the amendments earlier carried out by the Rajya Sabha.

Why the demand?

  • [] The bill was passed after the House repealed the National Commission for Backward Classes Act, 1993. The NCBC, a statutory body created in 1993, was given limited powers – only to recommend to the government inclusion or exclusion of a community in the central list of OBCs.
  • [] The power to hear complaints of the OBCs and protect their interests remained with the National Commission for Scheduled Castes.
  • [] The Bill is long overdue and many states have not implemented 27 per cent reservation to the OBCs.

What would the Constitutional status achieve?

The bill seeks to bring the NCBC on par with the National Commission for Scheduled Castes and the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes.

  • [] This would help the backward classes people fight atrocities against them and ensure quick justice to them.
  • [] The duties of the NCBC include investigating and monitoring how safeguards provided to the backward classes under the Constitution and other laws are being implemented and probe specific complaints regarding violation of rights. Under this measure, the NCBC will have the powers of a civil court while probing any complaint.

Some concerns:

  • [] The Constitution (123rd Amendment) Bill neither describes the expertise Commission members should possess nor provides a fixed tenure for them. Nor does it spell out explicitly whether the Commission will vet complaints of exclusion from and requests for inclusion in the list of classes granted 27% reservation.
  • [] Not giving the role of deciding the inclusion and exclusion to the proposed Constitutional Commission, which the earlier Commission had, will be a breach of the direction of the Supreme Court in Indra Sawhney

The Way Ahead:

Just as we have national defence policy, so too we must have a national reservation policy. The Government and the Commission should be honest enough to tell socially advanced groups that they are not socially and educationally backward and do not need reservation.

Note:

  • [] Reservation is aimed at enabling communities to overcome the structural problems arising from the low social status they historically have had in the hierarchical caste system.
  • [] For the Bill to become law, half of India’s state legislatures must ratify it, and the President must give his assent.
  • [] NCBC: Under the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment.
  • [] To assuage the protesters, the government introduced a 10 per cent quota for “economically backward sections” among forward castes. But the Supreme Court struck this down in the Indra Sawhney vs Union of India case judgment in 1992, where it held that the Constitution recognised only social and educational — not economic — backwardness. (Mandal judgment)
  • [] It was in 1953 that the first-of-its-kind Kalelkar Commission was set up to identify backward classes other than the SCs and STs at the national level.
  • [] The first to introduce reservation was the ruler of Kolhapur in 1902. Then the maharaja of Mysore introduced it in 1921.

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