What steps were taken to re-establish the backward classes policy?

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admin November 5, 2021
Updated 2021/11/05 at 7:16 AM

After receiving President Ramnath Kovind’s approval, the 105th Constitution Amendment was announced on August 19. Its goal is to give states back their ability to identify socially and educationally disadvantaged groups. The opposition put aside its disagreements with the administration and voted in favour of the Amendment, which was approved with the necessary special majority during the rainy monsoon session. After Parliament passed the 102nd Constitution Amendment, a Supreme Court ruling that states had lost their authority to add or remove groups from the list of “backward classes” became required.

Why did the Amendment become necessary?

The National Backward Groups Commission was established by the 102nd Constitution Amendment, which gave it the authority to be consulted by both the Centre and the States on any issues relating to the “socially and educationally backward classes” (SEBCs). In order to provide the Commission the similar powers as the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes Commission, Parliament adopted language that was almost identical to the SC/ST Commission’s existing legislation. As a result, under Article 342A, the President, in conjunction with the Governors, must announce a list of SEBCs in respect to each State and Union Territory. This was known as the ‘Central List,’ and it could only be changed by Parliament after it was notified. Based on this, the Supreme Court, in considering a challenge to Maharashtra’s Maratha reservation on various grounds, concluded that after the Amendment went into effect, states could no longer notify or identify backward classes, and only the President could do so, and only Parliament could make further changes.

What were the political parties’ reactions?

The Union government had contended vehemently in court that neither the Centre nor Parliament meant to deprive the states of their authority to designate SEBCs. The phrase ‘Central List’ was used to indicate that what the President notified was a list of backward groups for the purposes of the Central government and its instrumentalities, rather than the lists kept by the different States. Opposition parties criticised the Centre for adopting faulty legislation that led to the court’s decision. Because there was widespread political agreement that the Supreme Court’s interpretation needed to be overturned by legislation, it was agreed to modify the Constitution once again to define the role of the state in designating SEBCs. The Constitution (127th Amendment) Bill, 2021 was presented. It was modified as the Constitution (105th Amendment) Act, 2021 after it passed and received presidential assent.

What is the purpose of the 105th Amendment?

To reverse the consequences of the Supreme Court’s interpretation, Parliament passed new laws. As a result, it includes explicit provisions aimed at restoring the original goal of maintaining a ‘Central List’ for Union reasons while allowing States to keep their own lists. It first includes a clause stating that the need that the National Backward Classes Commission to be consulted on policy issues does not apply to State SEBC lists. It states that the President’s list of SEBCs is exclusively for the use of the Central Government and that the term “Central List” refers to the list “produced and maintained by and for the Central Government.” Furthermore, the 105th Amendment specifies that any State or Union Territory may create and maintain a list of SEBCs for its own purposes, which may vary from the Central List, by law. These modifications are intended to reverse three of the five judges on the Maratha reservation case’s finding that the phrase ‘Central List’ extended to all SEBCs notified by the President and that it was the sole List “for the purposes of the Constitution.” Finally, in order to put an end to any dispute about how SEBCs are defined, the most recent Amendment likewise altered the 102nd Amendment’s definition. “Socially and educationally backward classes” were originally defined as “such backward classes as are so considered by Article 342A for the purposes of this Constitution,” i.e., those found on the President’s List announced under Article 342A. SEBCs are now defined as individuals who are so considered under the same Article for the purposes of the Central government, the State, or the Union Territory.

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