Context: The Attorney General told the Supreme Court that the 102 amendment to the Constitution does not deprive state legislatures to enact law determining the Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (SEBC) and conferring benefits on them. The Constitution Bench of the Supreme Court was hearing the challenge against Maratha Quota on a writ petition challenging the 102 Constitutional Amendment Act.
- Petitioners contend that Maratha quota law was enacted without following the specific procedure laid out in the in Article 342A introduced by 102nd Constitutional AmendmentAct, 2018 to recognize socially and educationally backward classes.
- Under Article 342A, only the President in consultation with the Governor can specify socially and educationally backward classes in a State.
102 Constitutional Amendment Act, 2018
- It granted the National Commission on Backward Classes (NCBC) constitutional status, at par with the National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC under Article-338)) and the National Commission for Scheduled Tribes (under Article 338-A).
- Earlier, under the Constitution the NCSC has the power to look into complaints and welfare measures with regard to Scheduled Castes, backward classes and Anglo-Indians.
- This act removed the power of the NCSC to examine matters related to backward classes.
Constitutional Provisions related to backward classes
- Article 340 deals with the need to, inter alia, identify those “socially and educationally backward classes”, understand the conditions of their backwardness, and make recommendations to remove the difficulties they face.
- 102nd Constitution Amendment Act inserted new Articles 338 B and 342 A.
- The amendment also brings about changes in Article 366.
- Article 338B provides authority to NCBC to examine complaints and welfare measures regarding socially and educationally backward classes.
- Article 342 A states that the President may specify the socially and educationally backward classes in the various states and union territories. He may do this in consultation with the Governor of the concerned state.
- However, a law of Parliament will be required if the list of backward classes is to be amended.
All about National Commission on Backward Classes (NCBC)
- Composition and service conditions
- NCBC will comprise of five members, including Chairperson, Vice-Chairperson appointed by the President by warrant under his hand and seal.
- Their tenure and conditions of service is determined by the President through rules.
- The duties of the NCBC will include:
- Investigating and monitoring how safeguards provided to the backward classes under the Constitution and other laws are being implemented,
- Inquiring into specific complaints regarding violation of rights, and
- Advising and making recommendations on socio-economic development of such classes.
- (1) The Members shall be appointed from amongst persons of ability, integrity and standing who have had a record of selfless service to the cause of justice for the socially and educationally backward classes.
- (2) Subject to the provisions of sub rule (1),
- (a) the Chairperson shall be appointed from amongst eminent socio-political workers belonging to the socially and educationally backward classes, who inspire confidence amongst the socially and educationally backward classes by their very personality and record of selfless service;
- (b) of the Vice-Chairperson and all other Members out of whom, at least two shall be appointed from amongst persons belonging to the socially and educationally backward classes;
- (c) at least one other Member shall be appointed from amongst women;
Term of Office
- (1) Save as otherwise provided in these rules, every Member shall hold office for a term of three years from the date on which the Member assumes such office.
- (2) The Members shall not be eligible for appointment for more than two terms.
- The NCBC will be required to present annual reports to the President on working of the safeguards for backward classes.
- These reports will be tabled in Parliament, and in the state legislative assemblies of the concerned states.
- The central and state governments will be required to consult with the NCBC on all major policy matters affecting the socially and educationally backward classes.
- The Commission is vested with the power to regulate its own procedure.
- NCBC will have the powers of a civil court while investigating or inquiring into any complaints. These powers include:
- summoning people and examining them on oath,
- requiring production of any document or public record, and
- receiving evidence.