The Rajya Sabha on Monday passed The Constitution (123rd Amendment) Bill that grants constitutional status to the National Commission for Backward Classes. All 156 members present in the Upper House voted for it adopting all the amendments made by the Lok Sabha earlier this week.

Social Justice and Empowerment Minister Thaawarchand Gehlot, who moved the bill, called the bill the “need of the hour”. “This bill would provide justice to the OBC people,” Gehlot said, adding that there was demand for a constitutional status to the OBC Commission since the 1980s. Gehlot said the commission’s suggestions will not be binding on any state, and added that the commission would have women representation as well.

The National Commission for Backward Classes was set up in 1993, with powers to only recommend to the government whether to include a community in the central list of Other Backward Classes. The power to hear complaints and protect the interests of Other Backward Classes was vested with the National Commission for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. Giving the commission constitutional status means bringing the two on par.

The bill was introduced and passed in the Lok Sabha in 2017. On July 31, the Rajya Sabha passed the legislation, but with certain amendments. As this resulted in two different versions of the bill being passed by the two Houses, it was reintroduced in the Lok Sabha this Parliament session.

During a debate on the bill in the Rajya Sabha on Monday, several members asked the government to make the findings of the caste census public. They also asked officials to implement reservation based on that.