Parliament passes bill to provide constitutional status to National Commission for Backward Classes

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Parliament has passed Constitution (One Hundred and Twenty-Third Amendment) Bill, 2017 that seeks to provide constitutional status to the National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC). Now, the bill will be sent to President for his assent (as per 368 of Constitution). Parliament also passed separate bill to repeal National Commission for Backward Classes Act, 1993 as it will become irrelevant once Constitution (123rd Amendment) Bill comes into force.

Key Features of Bill

The Constitution (123rd Amendment) Bill provides for granting of constitutional status to NCBC on par with National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC) and National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (NCSTs). It empowers President to specify socially and educationally backward classes in various states and union territories in consultation with Governor of concerned state.

The bill provides duties of NCBC to investigate and monitor safeguards provided to socially and educationally backward classes backward classes under Constitution and other laws being implemented and probe specific complaints regarding violation of rights. It also provides NCBC with powers of civil court while probing any complaint against notified socially and educationally backward classes.

Background

The Constitutional Amendment Bill was first passed with over two-third majority, with all 406 members present voting in favour. It had passed bill by superseding amendments suggested by earlier by Rajya Sabha by incorporating alternate amendments as well as some more changes. The bill passed by Lok Sabha was again passed by Rajya Sabha in same format with absolute majority and over two-third majority of members present and voting (All 156 members present in the house voted in favour of the bill).

Note: Lok Sabha in April 2017 (Budget session 2017) had passed Constitution (123rd Amendment) Bill, 2017 and sent it to the Rajya Sabha. But in July 2017 (during 2017 Monsoon session), Rajya Sabha passed bill after incorporating certain amendments moved by Congress-led opposition and returned it to Lok Sabha for ratification of amendments. The amendments had increased three-member NCBC to five members so as give representation to woman and person from minority community. It also had mandated that all five members should necessarily be from OBC communities. It also had added another amendment sought to protect federal structure by giving states significant role in making recommendation to the list. Among suggested amendments, Union government had agreed to appoint one woman member from backward classes in NCBC. Other amendments were rejected.

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