Lok Sabha passes constitution amendment bill to restore states’ power to identify SEBCs

New Delhi: Lok Sabha passed the constitution (one hundredth and twenty-seventh amendment) bill 2021 to restore the power of state governments to identify and specify socially and economically backward classes(SEBCs), which was lost after the Supreme court’s 3:2 judgment in the Maratha quota case.

In the said case, a constitution bench of the supreme court had held by 3:2 majority that states lacked the power to identify and specify SEBCs after the 102nd constitutional amendment, and that such power was with the President of India.

Notably, the supreme court’s majority verdict was against the stand taken by the union government that the 102nd constitutional amendment did not affect the power of the states.

 The review petition filed by the union government seeking a review of the judicial interpretation given to the 102nd amendment was also dismissed.

Following that, the centre has now introduced this bill.

The bill proposes to amend Article 342A to state that the power of the President is to specify the socially and educationally backward classes in the central list for the purposes of the central government.

This is in line with the argument made by the Attorney general for India in the Maratha quota case that the power of President is only to specify SEBCs for the purposes of central list.

The amendment also proposes to add clause (3) to Article 342A, which clarify that states and union territories will have the power to identify and specify SEBCs for their own purposes and that such list may differ from the central list.

 The proposed clause reads as :

 “Notwithstanding anything contained in clauses (1) and (2), every state or union territory may, by law, prepare and maintain, for its own purposes, a list of socially and educationally backward classes, entries in which may be different from the central list”.

The centre said that this clarification was necessary to maintain the “federal structure” of the country.  “In order to adequately clarify that the State Government and Union territories are empowered to prepare and maintain their own state list/ union territory list of SEBCs and with a view to maintain the federal structure of this country, there is a need to amend article 342A and make consequential amendments in articles 338B and 366 of the constitution”, the statement of objects and reasons of the bill stated.