A constitutional amendment bill to restore the powers of the states to make their own Other Backward Classes (OBC) lists was passed by Parliament on Wednesday, August 11. The Constitution (One Hundred and Twenty-Seventh Amendment) Bill, 2021 was passed by the Rajya Sabha as 187 members voted in its favour. The Bill was passed by the Lok Sabha a day before. Some amendments moved by the opposition were negated by the Upper House.
The Bill was passed after a division vote with 187 members voting in favour. No member voted against it. Earlier in the day, Social Justice and Empowerment Minister Virendra Kumar, who moved the Bill, said the legislation will help restore the powers of states to have their own lists of OBCs which was negated by the Supreme Court. The Rajya Sabha, which has been witnessing a logjam over issues such as the Pegasus issue and farm laws, saw orderly discussion for the first time in the Monsoon session over the Bill. It was discussed for about five hours as members from both treasury as well as opposition benches participated in it.
The Bill amends the Constitution to allow states and Union Territories to prepare their own list of socially and educationally backward classes. In 2018, the Union government had given constitutional powers to the National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC) to centrally approve a list of socially and educationally backward classes for any state or Union Territory for all purposes. The opposition has maintained that it backs the legislation, but has demanded the removal of the 50% cap on reservation. In the lower house of Parliament, many parties also called for a caste-based census. Many leaders such as BJP ally JD(U)'s Lalan Singh, Samajwadi Party's Akhilesh Yadav, BSP's Ritesh Pandey and DMK's TR Baalu pitched for a caste-based census throughout the country.
As per Article 368 of the Constitution, a Constitution Amendment Bill requires a special majority for passage in both Houses of Parliament. There should be a majority of the total membership of the House and a majority of not less than two-thirds of the members of that House present and voting.