After Maratha Quota Row, Bill To Help States Edit Backward Classes' List

There are demands from various communities for inclusion in the OBC list (Representational)

New Delhi:

A constitution amendment bill that gives states the right to make their own list of Other Backward Classes, got a go ahead from the Union Cabinet today. The Centre is hoping to pass the bill in the Monsoon Session of parliament, sources said, pointing it out as a major government initiative for the backward classes.

While a constitution amendment bill requires two-thirds majority to get passage in parliament, most parties are expected to side with it in view of the rewards at the hustings.

In many states -- including opposition-ruled Maharashtra that's struggling to provide quota to the Marathas -- there are demands from various communities for inclusion in the OBC list. Meeting the demands is difficult in view of the rules, under which, the Supreme Court says, only the Centre is allowed to change the list.

The cabinet decided to take up the issue after the top court, during a hearing on the Maratha quota issue in May categorically said only the Central government can prepare a single list of Other Backward Classes. The court said that a law passed in 2018 had bestowed power only to the Centre to draw up the OBC list. The states, the court said, could only ask for inclusion in the list.

The 123rd Constitutional Amendment Bill passed in 2018 gives constitutional backing to the National Commission for Backward Classes, enabling it with special powers.

During the debate before passing the law, opposition parties had warned the Centre that it was taking over the rights of the state to make their own list. But the Centre went ahead with the decision and the top court interpreted the law as a lack of states' right to change OBC list, the opposition has said.

After repeated requests from Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray to address the issue, the government decided on a constitutional amendment to empower states and Union Territories.

Once the bill becomes law, every state and Union Territory will have the power to draw up their own OBC list, which can be distinct from the Central list. The amendment will specify that this has been the practice for the last 68 years, sources said,.

The government has also decided to give Constitutional status to the National Commission for the Other Backward Classes.

Earlier last week, OBC reservation was provided in the Central quota in medical education.