Lok Sabha passes OBC quota Bill that restores states' rights to decide : The Tribune India

Lok Sabha passes OBC quota Bill that restores states' rights to decide

Govt, Opposition voice support for constitution amendment Bill; first proper debate since Monsoon session began on July 19

Lok Sabha passes OBC quota Bill that restores states' rights to decide

Photo for representation only. LSTV/PTI

Tribune News Service
New Delhi, August 10

The Lok Sabha on Tuesday evening passed the 127th Constitution Amendment Bill restoring powers of the state governments to identify and notify their own lists for Other Backward Classes (OBC) and Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (SEBCs) for quota in jobs and education.

The Lok Sabha passed the Bill unanimously. This was the first proper debate of the Monsoon session since it began on July 19.

In Lok Sabha, the Bill was passed under special covid distancing norms which meant the Lok Speaker allowed MP’s to vote using slips, and not usual press of a button to register a vote.

Given the political implications of the legislation, the Bill was supported by all parties, including Opposition parties stalling the House for days on issues like the Pegasus snooping controversy and the three central farm laws. Social Justice and Empowerment Minister Virendra Kumar described the Bill as historic legislation as 671 castes in the country would benefit from it.

“If this Constitutional Bill is not brought, 671 OBCs would not get reservation. All of them will be benefited now,” Kumar said.

However, the day was not without its moments.  Initiating the debate, Congress leader in Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury extended his party’s wholehearted support to the Bill saying they were participating in the debate because it is an important Bill and voting of three-fourth members of the House is needed.

“The government repeatedly blames us for stalling the parliament. We are here to narrate the plight of people,” he said.

Amid objections from the Treasury Benches, Chowdhury also slammed the government for “running away” from the debate on the issue of “snooping” through the Pegasus spyware. 

Criticising the government for the 2018 amendment, Chowdhury said if the government had inserted a suggestion proposed by the Opposition, today’s situation would not have arisen.

“You tweaked the Constitution by bringing the 102 Constitution Amendment Bill in 2018 that gave people the opportunity to go to court and finally, the Supreme Court removed the states’ power,” he said.

“But you have a brute majority so you thought that you could do whatever you wanted to. However, when the states started raising their voice, you realised your actions were incorrect. Now, in the light of UP, Uttarakhand polls, you have decided to do all this...still, we support the amendment but also demand that owing to cases like Indra Sawhney case, a ceiling of 50 per cent has been given,” he said, adding that the ceiling should be removed as demanded by States like Maharashtra for Maratha reservation.

“You should listen to states, make it legal for states to cross the 50 per cent ceiling,” Chowdhury said, a demand that was supported by other parties like the Dravida Munnetra Kazagham and Samajwadi Party.

Intervening in the debate, union minister Bhupender Yadav, who chaired the select committee on the Bill asserted that maximum measures to have been taken at a fast pace to ensure justice for Dalits, OBCs, and the poor by the Narendra Modi government.

Hitting back, Yadav said the Constitution makers and not the Congress had made a provision for reservation for backward classes. However, when the Congress came to power in 1950 it ruled for 40 years but did not give justice to the backward classes. 

“When for the first time, a non-Congress government came to power, the Janata Party, the Mandal Commission was created. It had submitted its report in 1980 and you (the Congress) ran the government after that but did not implement it and did not give reservation to backward classes,” Yadav said.

The minister said that it was in power from 2004-14 but did not give constitutional status to the commission for backward classes, which was also done by the Modi government.

Yadav said Parliament’s intention was that the central and state OBC lists would remain separate. 

RSP’s NK Premchandra said the Opposition had repeatedly warned the government that its legislation would be interpreted by the court in the manner it was done, but the Centre did not listen and that is why the new bill was needed. Yadav said it is “our job to develop the legislative process” and asserted that the government is fully committed to ensuring justice for the poor, Dalits, and backward classes.

The Bill seeks to fulfill the basic aim and spirit of our constitution-makers to build a country in which people get social, economic, and political justice on the basis of equality, he said. 

The Supreme Court has dismissed the Centre’s plea seeking a review of its May 5 majority verdict that held that the 102nd Constitution amendment took away from the states’ power to notify SEBCs for the grant of quota in jobs and admissions.

Once the Rajya Sabha passes it and it gets the President's sanction, the legislation will allow states to notify OBC and SEBCs in the state Assembly. 

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