SC sparks debate by depriving states of power to identify backward classes

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By Express News Service

NEW DELHI:  In striking down the Maharashtra law granting reservation to the Maratha community in education and government jobs in the state, the Supreme Court has sparked a new debate: If states don’t have the power to identify socially and educationally backward classes (SEBCs) on the ground then will the Centre be able to do justice?

The court has ruled that, henceforth, there will only be a single list of socially and educationally backward classes with respect to each State and Union Territory notified by the President of India, and that States can only make recommendations for inclusion or exclusion, with any subsequent change to be made only by Parliament.

A constitution bench on Wednesday had clarified that after the 102nd Constitutional amendment, state governments do not have the power to identify socially and educationally backward classes and has laid the groundwork for new SEBC list for all states and union territories (UTs) to be notified by the President.
The 102nd amendment gives constitutional status to the National Commission for Backward Classes. Article 338B deals with the structure, duties and powers of the commission while 342A gives the President the power to notify a class as SEBC and the power of Parliament to alter the central SEBC list.

The court in its verdict held that the President should expeditiously publish list of SEBCs for different states and UTs, under Article 342A, after consultation with the commission set up under Article 338B and only till the time this is done that the SEBC lists made by the states would continue to hold the field. 

The three judges opined that Article 342A makes it clear that the President, after consultation with the Governor of a state or UT, may issue a public notification specifying socially and educationally backward classes.  “There will only be one list of socially and educationally backward classes, which may be issued by the President,” the bench ruled.

But, it clarified that the power on the extent of reservations, the kind of benefits, the quantum of scholarships, the number of schools which are to be specially provided under Article 15(4) can all be achieved by the State through its legislative and executive powers.

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