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Govt, Opposition voice support for constitution amendment Bill to restore states’ rights on OBC list

New Delhi, August 10

Lok Sabha on Tuesday witnessed a thaw in the logjam over the Pegasus snooping row as members cutting across party lines voiced support for a constitutional amendment bill to restore the states’ power to make their own OBC lists.

During the debate on ‘The Constitution (127th Amendment) Bill, 2021’, several Opposition parties, including the Congress, demanded a removal of the 50 per cent cap on reservations, while the government underlined its commitment to social justice.

For the first time since the Monsoon session of Parliament began on July 19, Lok Sabha witnessed a debate in an orderly manner as the Opposition put their protests demanding a debate over the Pegasus snooping allegations on hold for the bill.

During the debate, many leaders such as BJP ally JD(U)’s Lalan Singh, Samajwadi Party’s Akhilesh Yadav, BSP’s Ritesh Pandey and DMK’s T R Baalu demanded a caste census be conducted throughout the country.

Moving the bill for consideration and passage, Social Justice and Empowerment Minister Virendra Kumar described ‘The Constitution (127th Amendment) Bill, 2021’ as a historic legislation as 671 castes in the country would benefit from it.

He said the bill will restore the states’ rights to prepare their own lists of OBCs so that various communities can be given social and economic justice. The minister said the bill should be considered as the 105th Constitution Amendment bill after being renumbered.

The 102nd Constitution Amendment Act of 2018 inserted articles 338B, which deals with the structure, duties and powers of the National Commission for Backward Classes, and 342A that deals with the powers of the president to notify a particular caste as an SEBC and the power of Parliament to change the list. Article 366 (26C) defines SEBCs.

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 the states’ power to notify SEBCs for the grant of quota in jobs and admissions.

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

Initiating the debate, Congress leader in Lok Sabha Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury extended his party’s wholehearted support to the bill but criticised the government for the 2018 amendment, saying had the government inserted the 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 which gave people opportunity to go to the court and finally the Supreme Court removed the states’ power,” he said.

Chowdhury also slammed the government for allegedly running away from debate on the issue of “snooping” through the Pegasus spyware, saying the country after country like Hungary, the US and Israel have ordered probe into the controversial issue.

“We support this bill but our demand is to remove 50 per cent ceiling (in reservation). You should listen to states, make it legal for states to cross the 50 per cent ceiling,” Chowdhury said.

DMK’s Baalu and SP’s Yadav also demanded the removal of 50 per cent ceiling in reservation.

Intervening in the debate, Labour and Employment Minister Bhupender Yadav asserted that maximum measures to have been taken at a fast pace to ensure justice for Dalits, OBCs and the poor by the Modi government.

Hitting out at the Congress, Yadav said the Constitution makers had made a provision for reservation for backward classes, but 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.

Hitting out at the UPA, Yadav 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.

Revolutionary Socialist Party N K Premchandra said that 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 ensure justice for the poor, Dalits and backwards.

“This bill seeks to fulfil 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.

Participating in the discussion, Supriya Sure (NCP) said the credit should for this amendment bill should be given to the Maharashtra government which requested the Centre to do address the issue of OBC reservation.

Sule said another important issue along with this legislation is to address the 50 per cent ceiling on reservation without which the amendment will not fully resolve the issue. YSR Congress Party and Shiv Sena also voiced support for the bill.

The Constitutional amendment Bill requires that there should be a majority of the total membership of the House and by a majority of not less than two-thirds of the members of that House present and voting. PTI

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