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Govt finalises 3 tweaks for state OBC powers

The Times of India logo The Times of India 25-07-2021 Subodh Ghildiyal
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NEW DELHI: Aiming to overturn the Supreme Court judgment and restore the rights of states to identify the OBCs for local purposes, the Modi government is embracing the very changes to the 102nd Constitutional amendment that it had rejected from the opposition during the parliamentary process.

The Union Cabinet may clear the amendment bill this week in a sudden move that appears designed to break the opposition blockade in Parliament. It is learnt that the social justice ministry will make three changes to Article 342A, which governs the process of identification of OBCs. While Clause 1 will specify that the President will identify the OBCs in the “central list” which will be considered as backward in a state, a detailed explanatory note to Clause 2 will make it clear that “Central list” mentioned in the Clause pertains to the OBC list prepared by the Government of India for reservations in the services under the GOI.

The difference between “central list” and “Central list” is to clarify that the former refers to what has till now been called the “State list”.

To stress the point, a new Clause 3 is being added to underline that every state can prepare its list of OBCs for reservation in the state government jobs.

Ironically, these were roughly the suggestions given by the opposition parties during the tortuous debate in Parliament on 102nd amendment in 2017-18. While the government had rejected them, they were flagged by the Supreme Court in its May 5 judgement where it ruled that the 342A implies that only the Centre can identify the backwards for the Central list as well as the state lists.

The SC judgement denuding the states of their power to identify the OBCs for local reservations, as had been the case since 1993 when Mandal reservations came into force, triggered a major controversy.

Sources said the proposed Clause 3 will also negate the SC interpretation that 102nd amendment implies there will be a “single list”. Mentioned by three judges, it is seen as ordering that both the Central and State lists be merged to form one consolidated list. As reported by TOI, it has created uncertainty and the national commission for sub-categorisation of OBCs sought clarity on the issue, arguing it can’t move forward with its task till the meaning of “single list” was determined.

Arguing for the Constitutional amendment post-SC judgment, the Centre says it is necessary “to protect the federal structure of the country and to empower the state governments to maintain state list of OBCs”.

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