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.
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.
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