Lok Sabha Clears Bill Letting States Make OBC List, Opposition Backs Move

The Shiv Sena brought in an amendment to the OBC list bill but was defeated.

The opposition, despite targeting the government over several issues, backed the OBC list bill.

New Delhi:

The Lok Sabha on Tuesday passed a bill which, when it becomes law, will allow states and Union Territories to draw up their own list of other backward communities (OBCs). These lists can be different from the Central government's. The bill was cleared with 385 votes for and none against it.

The Constitution (One Hundred and Twenty-Seventh Amendment) Bill, 2021, was brought in by the Union Cabinet to undo a categorical Supreme Court ruling in May that only the Central government can prepare an OBC list. The court's stricture came during a hearing on the Maratha quota issue and cited a law passed in August 2018 to give constitutional status to the National Commission for Backward Classes.

"States have no power to add any caste to socially economically backward caste list due to the amendment made by Parliament," the Supreme Court had observed back then.

Moving the bill on Tuesday, Social Justice and Empowerment Minister Virendra Kumar described it as a historic legislation as 671 castes in the country would benefit from it.

The Shiv Sena on Tuesday brought in an amendment to the bill in the Lok Sabha but it was defeated, with 305 voting against and only 71 for it.

The bill received support from the Opposition, despite the rivals targeting the Centre over a range of issues, including the farmers' protest and the alleged Pegasus spyware scandal. The protests over these other matters were suspended for the bill to be passed.

Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury initiated the discussion on the bill and alleged that the government had 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 the Opposition's suggestions when the 2018 bill was passed, Tueday's exercise wouldn't have been necessary.

A constitution amendment bill requires two-thirds majority to be passed in Parliament.

The passing of the bill comes amid murmurs from some states like Bihar of their own caste-based surveys, given the Central government's stand that only Scheduled Castes and Tribes, none other, will be enumerated in Census 2021.