President Ram Nath Kovind has granted his assent to the Constitution (105th Amendment) Act 2021, which restores the power of state governments to make their own lists of Other Backward Classes, ANI reported on Friday.
The legislation was passed by the Lok Sabha on August 10 and by the Rajya Sabha on August 11, according to PRS Legislative Research. It was introduced as the Constitution (127th Amendment) Bill but was renumbered later.
Union Social Justice and Empowerment Minister Virendra Kumar, while introducing the Bill in the Lok Sabha, had said there was a need to amend Article 342A of the Constitution to sufficiently clarify that the state and Union Territories’ administrations had been empowered to prepare and keep their own list of Socially and Educationally Backward Classes.
The ministry had also noted that amendments had to be made to Articles 338B and 366 to maintain India’s federal system, according to PTI.
Article 342A deals with the president’s power to notify a specific caste as a Socially and Educationally Backward Classes and the power of Parliament to modify the list, PTI reported.
Article 366 (26C) provides the definition for a Socially and Educationally Backward Class.
The new Act states that the president would be able to notify the list of Socially and Educationally Backward Classes only for the purposes of the Centre. This list would be prepared and kept by the Centre, and the states and Union Territories would also prepare their own data of the socially and educationally backward classes.
Article 338B deals with the duties, structure and powers of the National Commission for Backward Classes.
The Act has come into force amid demands by many parties to conduct a nationwide caste census. Earlier this month, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar demanded a caste-based census and said that the need for it was driven by social concerns and not political ones.
Bahujan Samaj Party chief Mayawati on August 6 said her party would support the Centre in Parliament and outside if the government started taking “positive steps” towards conducting a census of Other Backward Classes.