Lok Sabha clears Bill restoring States’ rights to specify OBC groups

Lawmakers across parties call for removal of 50% cap on reservations

Updated - November 22, 2021 09:49 pm IST

Published - August 10, 2021 08:52 pm IST - NEW DELHI

The Lok Sabha votes on the Constitution (One Hundred and Twenty-Seventh Amendment) Bill, 2021 on August 10, 2021.

The Lok Sabha votes on the Constitution (One Hundred and Twenty-Seventh Amendment) Bill, 2021 on August 10, 2021.

The Lok Sabha on Tuesday passed the Constitution 127th Amendment Bill, 2021 with unanimous support from the House and not a single vote against, with Social Justice and Empowerment Minister Dr. Virendra Kumar stating that there was a need for a careful examination of the demand made by several Lok Sabha MPs to remove the 50% cap on reservations currently in place.

Replying to the debate on the Bill, the first such debate in an orderly manner in a session marked by three weeks of disruptions and adjournments, Dr. Kumar said the issue required a careful going over of legal and constitutional issues.


“In the Indra Sawhney case the court has observed that the limit can be increased beyond the 50% but only in certain special circumstances. The government is aware of the wishes of the members,” he said.

671 beneficiaries

The Minister said the current Constitutional Amendment Bill was a historic legislation as 671 castes in the country would benefit from it and restore the States’ rights to make their own list of OBCs and should be considered as the 105th Constitution Amendment Bill after being renumbered.

The Constitution 127th Amendment Bill, 2021 seeks to restore the power of State governments to identify Other Backward Classes that are socially and economically backward after a Supreme Court order in May 2021 , which had empowered only the Central government for such identification. The amendment was thought necessary because the SC in its order on Maratha reservations upheld the 102ndConstitutional Amendment Act that inserted Articles 338B and 342 A (with two clauses) after Article 342 which said that the President of India, in consultation with governors would specify socially and economically backward classes, taking away the powers of state governments to do so.

Lead speaker for the Opposition, Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhary said the Bill was necessitated by the fact that the Narendra Modi government had turned a deaf ear to the suggestions of the Opposition during the debate on the 102nd Constitutional Amendment. Supporting the Bill, Mr. Chowdhary said, “You (BJP) tweaked the Constitution by bringing the 102nd Constitutional Amendment Bill, 2018, which gave people the opportunity to go the courts and finally the Supreme Court removed the States’ power.”

“We support the B ill but our demand is to remove 50% ceiling in reservation. You should listen to the States, make it legal for States to cross the 50% ceiling,” he said. He received support on this from DMK’s T.R. Baalu and Samajwadi Party leader Akhilesh Yadav who also demanded the lifting of a 50% ceiling.

Intervening in the debate, Minister for Labour Bhupendra Yadav said the Congress had buried old reports including the Kaka Kallelkar and Mandal Commission report on backward classes.

He responded to Mr Chowdhary’s charge of the government having created the need for this bill through its own actions. “When the 102nd Amendment was brought in 2018, the government’s intent was that both at the Central and the State level, OBC lists will be maintained. The same arguments were made in the Supreme Court, and its judgement on taking the States’ power away was not by consensus,” he said. He quoted the observations of two of the judges to bolster his argument. “It is our job to develop the legislative process,” Mr Yadav said, and asserted the Centre’s commitment to social justice.

Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leader Supriya Sule, whose party, a constituent of the Maha Vikas Aghadi government in Maharashtra is pushing for Maratha reservation in connection with which the Supreme Court delivered its verdict on the Centre being the only enumerator of OBCs, necessitating this bill, said the credit should be given to the Maharashtra government which requested the Centre to move the Bill to address the issue. She too put her heft behind the removal of the 50% cap on reservations.

Many parties, including Samajwadi Party (SP), the Telugu Desam Party and NDA allies Apna Dal and Janata Dal (U) also asked for caste-based census to get a real idea of the number of OBCs in the country.

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