Lok Sabha passes constitution amendment bill to enable states to maintain list of socially and educationally backward classes

New Delhi [India]: The Lok Sabha on Tuesday passed a bill to restore the power of states and union territories to prepare and maintain their own list of socially and educationally backward classes (SEBCs).
The Constitution (One Hundred and Twenty-Seventh Amendment) Bill, 2021 was passed by the House with 385 members voting in its favour and none against in the final division. The opposition parties decided to “cooperate” with the government in passing the bill and suspend their protest in the House for the bill to be passed.
The opposition parties have been protesting and forcing adjournments since the beginning of the monsoon session over their demand for a probe into allegations of surveillance through Pegasus spyware and repeal of farm laws.
Replying to the debate on the bill, Social Justice and Empowerment Minister Virendra Kumar said the bill seeks to clarify that the state government and Union territories are empowered to prepare and maintain their own list of SEBCs.
The division took place through voting slips as the House has a special seating arrangement as part of precautions against COVID-19 and the automatic vote recorder could not be used.
The process of providing voting slips to members and collecting them took time.
Responding to the demands for increasing reservation beyond 50 per cent, the minister said the government understands the feelings of members. He said the courts have repeatedly emphasised this ceiling and there is a need to give attention to the constitutional aspects.
The bill was passed by 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.
The Parliament had in August 2018 passed a constitution amendment bill to give constitutional status to National Commission for Backward Classes.
Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury initiated the discussion on the bill and alleged that the government has brought it with an eye on the assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand early next year.
He said if the government had heeded to opposition suggestions when Constitution (One Hundred and Second Amendment) Bill, 2018 was passed, there would have been no need to bring this bill now.
The Congress leader said that the party has always been at the forefront of the uplifting OBC community.
He said several countries had started a probe into alleged surveillance concerning Pegasus spyware and accused the government of “running away from a debate”.
The statement of objects and reasons of the bill states that there always existed separate lists of Central Government and that of the state governments and Union territories pertaining to SEBCs since 1993.
It said that a question has arisen after enactment of the Constitution (One Hundred and Second Amendment) Act, 2018 as to whether the amendments mandated for a single Central List of SEBCs specifying the SEBCs for each state and had taken away the powers of the states to prepare and maintain a separate state list.

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