The Constitution (123rd Amendment) Bill
- The Constitution (123rd Amendment) Bill, 2017 was passed in Lok Sabha by the Minister of Social Justice and Empowerment, which seeks to grant the National Commission on Backward Classes (NCBC) constitutional status.
National Commission for Backward Classes:
- The NCBC is a body set up under the National Commission for Backward Classes Act, 1993.
- It has the power to examine complaints regarding inclusion or exclusion of groups within the list of backward classes, and advise the central government in this regard.
- The Bill seeks to remove the power of the NCSC to examine matters related to backward classes provide NCBC the authority to examine complaints and welfare measures regarding socially and educationally backward classes.
Amendment to the Constitution:
- A constitutional amendment under Article 368 needs to be passed by both Houses separately with a special majority.
- The Bill as passed by the Lower House inserts Article 338 B in the Constitution, which provides for a Commission for the socially and educationally backward classes with a Chairperson, Vice-Chairperson and three other members, all of whom shall be appointed by the President of India.
Provisions of the Bill / Defining a Backward class:
- The Constitution Amendment Bill states that the President may specify the socially and educationally backward classes in the various states and union territories.
- He may do this in consultation with the Governor of the concerned state.
- A law of Parliament will be required to amend the backward classes list.
Composition and Service conditions:
- Under the Constitution Amendment Bill, the NCBC will comprise of five members appointed by the President.
- Their tenure and conditions of service will also be decided by the President through rules.
- Investigating and monitoring how safeguards provided to the backward classes under the Constitution and other laws are being implemented.
- Inquiring into specific complaints regarding violation of rights.
- Advising and making recommendations on socio-economic development of such classes.
- The central and state governments will be required to consult with the NCBC on all major policy matters affecting the socially and educationally backward classes.
- The NCBC will be required to present annual reports to the President on working of the safeguards for backward classes. These reports will be tabled in Parliament, and in the state legislative assemblies of the concerned states.
Powers of a civil court:
- Under the Constitution Amendment Bill, the NCBC will have the powers of a civil court while investigating or inquiring into any complaints. These powers include:
- Summoning people and examining them on oath,
- Requiring production of any document or public record,
- Receiving evidence.
- The Bill encroaches upon the states’ role of identifying the backward classes. There is no clear demarcation among centre and states in identifying the backward classes.
- It is recommended that the advice of the National Commission on inclusion and exclusion of castes from the list of backward classes should be binding on the government;
- It is recommended that the Commission should have seven members, which includes five members from backward classes, one-woman member, and one member from a minority community, which will be much represented.
- Backward Classes, who account for more than 40 per cent of the population, will be immensely benefitted by this one move.
- Backward Classes can take up their problems with the Backward Classes Commission and get redressed anywhere in the country.
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