The Constitution 123rd Amendment Bill: National Commission for Backward Classes

Parliament has passed a bill to provide constitutional status to the National Commission for Backward Classes through 123rd Constitutional Amendment Bill 2017. It seeks to grant the National Commission on Backward Classes (NCBC) constitutional status, at par with the National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC) and the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes.
The Constitution (123rd Amendment) Bill 2017 was passed after a spirited debate during which several members urged the Centre to make public the findings of the caste census and implement reservation accordingly. It was cleared by the Lok Sabha on August 2 superseding the amendments earlier carried out by the Rajya Sabha.

Till now,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. Also, the power to hear complaints of the OBCs and protect their interests remained with the National Commission for Scheduled Castes.While the present Bill seeks to establish the NCBC under the Constitution, and provide it the authority to examine complaints and welfare measures regarding socially and educationally backward classes.

Backward classes: The Constitution Amendment Bill states that the President may specify the socially and educationally backward classes in the various states and union territories. He may do this in consultation with the Governor of the concerned state. However, a law of Parliament will be required if the list of backward classes is to be amended.
Composition and service conditions: Under the Constitution Amendment Bill, the NCBC will comprise of five members appointed by the President. Their tenure and conditions of service will also be decided by the President through rules.
Functions: Under the Constitution Amendment Bill, the duties of the NCBC will include: (i) investigating and monitoring how safeguards provided to the backward classes under the Constitution and other laws are being implemented, (ii) inquiring into specific complaints regarding violation of rights, and (iii) advising and making recommendations on socio-economic development of such classes. The central and state governments will be required to consult with the NCBC on all major policy matters affecting the socially and educationally backward classes.
The NCBC will be required to present annual reports to the President on working of the safeguards for backward classes. These reports will be tabled in Parliament, and in the state legislative assemblies of the concerned states.
Powers of a civil court: Under the Constitution Amendment Bill, the NCBC will have the powers of a civil court while investigating or inquiring into any complaints. These powers include: (i) summoning people and examining them on oath, (ii) requiring production of any document or public record, and (iii) receiving evidence.

Additional Information:-

  1- Mandal Commission:-

The Mandal Commission, or the Socially and Educationally Backward Classes Commission (SEBC), was established in India on 1 January 1979 by the Janata Party government under Prime Minister Morarji Desai with a mandate to “identify the socially or educationally backward classes” of India.It was headed by the late B.P. Mandal an Indian parliamentarian, to consider the question of reservations for people to redress caste discrimination, and used eleven social, economic, and educational indicators to determine backwardness. In 1980, based on its rationale that OBCs (“Other backward classes”) identified on the basis of caste, economic and social indicators comprised 52% of India’s population, the Commission’s report recommended that members of Other Backward Classes (OBC) be granted reservations to 27 per cent of jobs under the Central government and public sector undertakings, thus making the total number of reservations for SC, ST and OBC to 49%.

Though the report had been completed in 1983, the V.P.Singh government declared its intent to implement the report in August 1990, leading to widespread student protests.It was thereafter provided a temporary stay order by the Supreme court, but implemented in 1992 in the central government.

2- Article 340 in The Constitution Of India
Appointment of a Commission to investigate the conditions of backward classes
(1) The President may by order appoint a Commission consisting of such persons as he thinks fit to investigate the conditions of socially and educationally backward classes within the territory of India and the difficulties under which they labour and to make recommendations as to the steps that should be taken by the Union or any State to remove such difficulties and to improve their condition and as to the grants that should be made for the purpose by the Union or any State the conditions subject to which such grants should be made, and the order appointing such Commission shall define the procedure to be followed by the Commission
(2) A Commission so appointed shall investigate the matters referred to them and present to the President a report setting out the facts as found by them and making such recommendations as they think proper
(3) The President shall cause a copy of the report so presented together with a memorandum explaining the action taken thereon to be laid before each House of Parliament

3- Commission looking into sub-categorisation of OBCs:-

President Ram Nath Kovind appointed a five-member Commission headed by Delhi High Court’s former Chief Justice G Rohini to examine the sub-categorisation of Other Backward Classes (OBCs) under Article 340 of the Constitution.
It will examine the extent of inequitable distribution of benefits of reservation among the castes or communities included in the broad category of OBCs with reference to such classes included in the Central List.
It will also work out the mechanism, criteria, norms, and parameters in a scientific approach for sub-categorisation within such OBCs and will take up the exercise of identifying the respective castes or communities or sub-castes or synonyms in the Central List of OBCs and classifying them into their respective sub-categories.

World Press Freedom Index 2018

World Press Freedom Index for the year 2018 has been released every year since 2002 by Reporters Without Borders (RSF). The World Press Freedom Index is an important advocacy tool based on the principle of emulation between states.
The Index ranks 180 countries according to the level of freedom available to journalists. It is a snapshot of the media freedom situation based on an evaluation of pluralism, independence of the media, quality of legislative framework and safety of journalists in each country. It does not rank public policies even if governments obviously have a major impact on their country’s ranking. Nor is it an indicator of the quality of journalism in each country.
Indicators: Along with the Index, RSF calculates a global indicator and regional indicators that evaluate the overall performance of countries (in the world and in each region) as regards media freedom. It is an absolute measure that complements the Index’s comparative rankings. The global indicator is the average of the regional indicators, each of which is obtained by averaging the scores of all the countries in the region, weighted according to their population as given by the World Bank.
Press freedom map: The press freedom map, which is distributed in print and digital versions, offers a visual overview of the sitution in each country in the Index. The colour categories are assigned as follows: good (white), fairly good (yellow), problematic (yellow), bad (red) and very bad (black).

Press Freedom Index 2018- Highlights:

In this year’s index, Norway is first for the second year running, followed — as it was last year — by Sweden.
India has dropped from rank 136 last year to rank 138 this year. India fared poorly on indicators such as hate speeches, attacks on journalists on social media, trolling them and targeting their reputation.
SAARC nations: Afghanistan (118), Bhutan (94), Nepal (106), the Maldives (120), and Sri Lanka (131), all performed better than India; with Pakistan (139) and Bangladesh (146) performing worse.
North Korea continues to rank last.

Jerusalem: US accepted as capital of Israel- Analysis of controversy

Recently, Trump said that USA is shifting the embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem which clearly indicates that now the USA is claiming that Jerusalem as capital of Israel. The US officials say that this move is motivated by the fact that Jerusalem is a city of Historical importance and it eligible to be a capital of Israel. While officially making Jerusalem as a capital of Israel was an official campaign of Trump. This move is welcomed by PM Benjamin Netanyahu which is one of the Trump’s biggest supporters.

Affect of this move:-  While, any such move of USA will be supported by the Israel. The Palestinians have warned that changing this step of USA would mean the end of those peace efforts. They have threatened that mass street protest may take full scale violence. Palestinian leaders are resolute that an embassy move to Jerusalem would result into violation of international law and there will be unrest in the region. This issue will also deteriorate relation with Arab. The Arab nation threatened that moving the embassy may lead to diplomatic crises with Arab states. Head of the Arab league has called that this step of US president may lead to dangerous situation and considered it as unacceptable attack to Israel-Palestinians conflict. Further, it would overturn international consensus and will be considered as an attack on 70 years of efforts to achieve peace between Israel and Palestine. UN-security council condemns Trump’s decision. The step is even opposed by the Gaza strip and West Bank of it.

India’s Stand:- India is neutral on this issue. It considers Palestine as an independent state. However, India stand on Jerusalem is unclear. This is a diplomatic stand of India not to disturb its relationship with any of two parties that is Arab on one side and Israel and USA on the other. Both these parties are of strategic importance for India, with whom India’s trade is flourishing. Taking one stand could disturb trade and diplomatic relationship with other. India cannot afford to lose any one because both of them are of economic importance for India.

Some related information to this issue: – The status of Jerusalem home to sites holy to Muslims, Jews and Christians is one of the core issues in the perennial Israel-Palestine conflict of 1967. After occupying the eastern part of the city Jerusalem by Israel, it made the city as undivided capital of Jerusalem.

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17-08-17 (Currunt Updates)

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