Restoring States Rights, Empowering OBCs

Modi Government has been at the forefront of ensuring social justice for all. From Reservation for OBCs in AIQ in NEET, introducing EWS reservation, giving constitutional status to National Backward Castes Commission or expanding welfare to SC/ST community. As the Chief Minister who went on to become Prime Minister, Narendra Modi has prioritized empowering of states and working in collaboration with them as equal partners on India’s path to growth.

It is in this aspect that the Modi government has introduced Constitution (127th Amendment) Bill, 2021 in Lok Sabha seeking to restore the states’ power to make their own OBC lists.

States Right and Diversity of India Upheld

This Constitutional Amendment is required in light of the judgment of Constitutional bench of the Supreme court which held that only the Central Government could notify Socially And Educationally Backward Classes (SEBCs) – not the States. This was based on interpretation of 102nd amendment to the Constitution by the Court which says, empowered the President, to notify the list of Socially And Educationally Backward Classes for any State or Union Territory for all purposes. The 102nd Constitutional Amendment also gave Constitutional status to National OBC Commission.

Social Justice and Empowerment Minister Virendra Kumar introduced the amendment which now empowers the President to notify the list of socially and educationally backward classes only for purposes of the Union government.  This central list will be prepared and maintained by the Union Government.  Further, the Bill enables States and Union Territories to prepare their own list of socially and educationally backward classes. The amendment also specifies that States can prepare the list only by law ensuring approval from state legislatures. Further the State list can even differ from the Central list.

States have also been waived from the requirement of consulting with National Backward Commission while preparing the list of SEBCs.

This amendment is necessary as India is a very diverse country and ensuring the States have right to declare SEBC takes into account the varying socio-economic disparities of the country and ensure that those who are genuinely socially and economically backward do get the required reservation benefits, they are entitled to.

Consistent Position of Union Government

Consequent to the 5th of May Judgement, Union Government had filed a review petition arguing that Articles 15(4), 15(5) and 16(4) expressly conferred power on a state to identify and declare the list of socially and educationally backward classes and states have been doing so in the last 68 years. The review petition was filed within 10 days of the Judgment showing the seriousness and earnestness of the Modi Government in arguing for states rights.

Modi Government argued that Article 342(2) was intended only to ensure that the President (meaning the Centre) would identify backward classes for the purpose of the Central list and it was incorrect to interpret this as excluding states from having their own lists.

With Supreme Court rejecting the review petition too, Modi Government set up a team of legal experts to restore the rights of State to make lists of SEBCs.

Now in the first Parliamentary Session after the Supreme Court judgement, the Bill to empower States themselves to make their own list of SEBCs is being introduced.

With this move, Modi Government is not only restoring states rights and empowering OBCs across the country, it is also strengthening the federal structure of the country.