What is NCBC?
• 102nd Constitution Amendment Act, 2018 provides constitutional status to the National Commission for Backward Classes (NCBC).
• It has the authority to examine complaints and welfare measures regarding socially and educationally backward classes.
• Previously NCBC was a statutory body under the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment
What is the background?
• Two Backward Class Commissions were appointed in 1950s and 1970s under Kaka Kalelkar and B.P. Mandal respectively.
• In Indra Sawhney case of 1992, Supreme Court had directed the government to create a permanent body to entertain, examine and recommend the inclusion and exclusion of various Backward Classes for the purpose of benefits and protection.
• In pursuant to these directions parliament passed National Commission for Backward Classes Act in 1993 and constituted the NCBC.
What is the composition of NCBC and service conditions of the members?
• The Commission consists of five members including a Chairperson, Vice- Chairperson and three other Members appointed by the President by warrant under his hand and seal.
• The conditions of service and tenure of office of the Chairperson, Vice- Chairperson and other Members is determined by President.
Which Constitutional Provisions are relevant?
• Article 340 deals with the need to 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.
• Backward classes: The Constitution Amendment Bill 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. (Article 342 A)
What are the powers and functions of NCBC?
• Under the Constitution Amendment Bill, the duties of the NCBC will include:
(i) Investigating and monitoring how safeguards provided to the backward classes under the Constitution and other laws are being implemented,
(ii) Inquiring into specific complaints regarding violation of rights, and
(iii) Advising and making recommendations on socio-economic development of such classes.
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.
It presents to the President, annually and at such other times as the Commission may deem fit, reports upon the working of those safeguards. The President laid such reports before each House of Parliament.
Where any such report or any part thereof, relates to any matter with which any State Government is concerned, a copy of such report shall be forwarded to the State Government.
• NCBC has to discharge such other functions in relation to the protection, welfare and development and advancement of the socially and educationally backward classes as the President may, subject to the provisions of any law made by Parliament, by rule specify.
Is it a quasi-judicial body?
Yes. It has powers of a civil court:
• Under the Constitution Amendment Act, the NCBC will have the powers of a civil court while investigating or inquiring into any complaints. These powers include:
(i) Summoning people and examining them on oath,
(ii) Requiring production of any document or public record, and
(iii) Receiving evidence.
How is the new Commission different from the earlier one?
• The new act has recognized that BCs need development in addition to reservations. There are provision in the act for development of Socially and Educationally Backward Classes (SEdBCs) and the new NCBC’s role in the development process.
• The new NCBC is entrusted with the additional function of grievance redress of backward classes.
• Article 342(A) introduces greater transparency as it is made mandatory to take the concurrence of Parliament for adding or deleting any community in the backward list.