The Constitution (123rd Amendment) Bill, 2017 – National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC)

It seeks to grant the National Commission on Backward Classes (NCBC) constitutional status, at par with the National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC).

0
358
National Commission for Backward Classes
National Commission for Backward Classes

GS 2 – Indian Constitution- historical underpinnings, evolution, features, amendments, significant provisionsand basic structure.

Appointment to various Constitutional posts, powers, functions and responsibilities of various Constitutional Bodies.

 

Context

The Constitution (123rd Amendment) Bill, 2017 was passed by Lok Sabha on 2nd August 2018, followed by Rajya Sabha on 6th August. 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 by inserting a new Article 338 B in the Constitution. It also inserts a new article 342-A which empowers the president to notify the list of socially and educationally backward classes of that state / union territory.
Currently, under the Constitution the NCSC has the power to look into complaints and welfare measures with regard to Scheduled Castes, backward classes and Anglo-Indians. The Bill seeks to remove the power of the NCSC to examine matters related to backward classes.

Constitutional status

The NCBC is a body set up under the National Commission for Backward Classes Act, 1993. It has the power to examine complaints regarding inclusion or exclusion of groups within the list of backward classes, and advise the central government in this regard. The 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.

This commission will also discharge other functions related to the protection, welfare, and development of the backward classes and empower them by utilising the inherent powers of Articles 16(4) and 15(4) under the Constitution.

Parliament also passed a separate bill to repeal National Commission for Backward Classes Act, 1993

Identification of 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, with one woman member. 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:

  • Investigating and monitoring how safeguards provided to the backward classes under the Constitution and other laws are being implemented,
  • Inquiring into specific complaints regarding violation of rights, and
  • 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:

  • Summoning people and examining them on oath,
  • Requiring production of any document or public record and receiving evidence on affidavits;
  • Requisitioning any public record from any court or office;
  • Issuing summons for the examination of witnesses and documents.

 Underlying Issues

  • Since the body is accorded constitutional status, its recommendations gets teeth and centre can no longer set aside them like earlier.
  • The bill would undermine federalism, as it may lead to usurping the State government’s power to prepare their own BC list.
  • It will pave way for a healthy debate regarding Sub categorization of OBC quota and the 50% cap on the reservation as stipulated in Indra Sawhney vs Union of India, 1992 (Mandal Case).  In this regard a committee under Justice G Rohini had been set up to examine sub-categorisation of OBCs.
  • Till now, only Tamil Nadu with 69% reservation was the exception to the cap. Now, many other states may demand for removal of 50% cap and it is visible with recent Jats, Patidars and Maratha agitations. The main reason for the demand is poverty and unemployment within the socially advanced castes (SACs)
  • The real danger is the protection of socially and Educationally Backward classes from the inclusion of any socially advanced castes in the list.

Reservations and other social justice measures are accorded only for social classes who are victims of “untouchability” (SCs), victims of remoteness under vulnerable conditions (STs), victims of social inferiority or lowliness under the caste system and not for the poor or the unemployed.

Terms of Reference of committee, appointed to examine Subcategorization of OBCs

Way Forward:

The poor and the unemployed, who do not belong to reserved classes, should be helped through means such as scholarships and educational loans, but not through reservation. Ensuring the Implementation of “Creamy Layer” norms will address the needs of marginalised within the reserved section.

The Centre and NCBC must find a way out to determine the criteria for identifying socially and educationally backward classes. In this regard, The Socio Economic Caste Census, 2011 data can be made public and utilized for reservation reforms.

Source : PRS – Bills