The Parliament has cleared the Constitution (123rd Amendment) Bill, 2017 also referred to as the OBC bill as part of the ongoing Monsoon session.
The Rajya Sabha has cleared the bill as on 06-08-2018. The bill to grant constitutional status to the National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC) was passed unanimously by Lok Sabha on 03-08-2018.
The passage of the Constitution (123rd Amendment) Bill, 2017, making NCBC a panel with full powers to safeguard rights and interests of the Other Backward Classes (OBCs), is likely to give a fillip to the BJP’s attempts to posture itself as a party that stands for backward communities.
Constitutional status to NCBC
The NCBC is a body set up under the National Commission for Backward Classes Act, 1993. Before the amendment, it had 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 establish the NCBC under the Constitution, and provide it with the authority to examine complaints and welfare measures regarding socially and educationally backward classes.
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.
Modified functions of the NCBC
The duties of the NCBC now include:
- Investigating and monitoring how the 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 the 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 is set to 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.
National Commission for Backward Classes Act, 1993
Section 3 of the Act provides that the NCBC shall consist of 5 members, comprising of
- A Chairperson who is or has been a Judge of the Supreme Court or High Court;
- A social scientist;
- 2 persons, who have special knowledge in matters relating to backward classes;
- A member-secretary, who is or has been an officer of the Centre in the rank of a Secretary.