Constitutional Amendment Bill: The 10% reservation will be over and above the 50% reservation
New Delhi: Ahead of the general elections, a bill to provide 10 per cent quota in jobs and education to candidates who belong to the economically weaker sections in the general category, was passed by the Lok Sabha today. While many opposition parties dubbed the government's move a "political gimmick" in the four-and-half-hour debate, most backed the bill, which, in a first, extends reservation to the general category. Calling it a landmark moment, Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted, "it sets into motion the process to achieve an effective measure that ensures justice for all sections of society." The bill stands a fair chance in Rajya Sabha, where it will be presented tomorrow afternoon.
Following are the latest developments in Constitutional Amendment Bill:
- The bill was passed with 323 lawmakers voting for it and only three voting against. Prime Minister Narendra Modi -- whose cabinet cleared the bill last evening -- and Congress chief Rahul Gandhi were present in the house for the voting. Neither had participated in the debate.
- "We are resolutely committed to the principle of 'Sabka Saath, Sabka Vikas.' It is our endeavour to ensure that every poor person, irrespective of caste or creed gets to lead a life of dignity, and gets access to all possible opportunities," PM Modi tweeted.
- Among the opposition parties, the Samajwadi Party, Telangana Rashtra Samithi, Trinamool Congress, the Left and the Congress said they would support the bill.The proposed law also got the support of Telangana Rashtra Samithi, Naveen Patnaik's Biju Janata Dal and Upendra Kushwaha, who walked out of the NDA last month following acrimony over seat sharing in Bihar.
- Several of the opposition parties, including Lalu Yadav's Rashtriya Janata Dal, Arvind Kejriwal's Aam Aadmi Party and the Congress, questioned timing of the bill, claiming the government's move was spurred by the coming national elections.
- Asaduddin Owaisi's AIMIM said they opposed the bill. So did Tamil Nadu's ruling AIADMK, which walked out of the house ahead of the voting. AIADMK's Mr Thambi Durai said, "Have government schemes for the poor failed? There are enough schemes. This reservation bill which you are bringing will be struck down by the Supreme Court".
- The Congress said it would prefer a parliamentary committee to look into the matter. It drew a reality check from Union Minister Arun Jaitley, who pointed out that in its manifesto, the party supported the issue. The opposition, he said, "faces test whether they support advancement of economically backward sections only for the manifesto or here in the house as well".
- The bill is expected to benefit a huge section of upper castes -- including Brahmins, Rajputs (Thakurs), Jats, Marathas, Bhumihars, and several traders belonging to the Kapu and Kamma communities. The economically deprived among the other religions will also benefit.
- A constitution amendment bill has to be passed with two-thirds majority in each house. Because the constitution does not provide for reservation on the ground of economic conditions, an amendment is required.
- The 10 per cent reservation will be over and above the 50 per cent reservation stipulated by the Supreme Court. Any reservation above the cap invites judicial scrutiny. But the government has argued that the fresh reservation depends on economy, not caste and so, will not fall foul of the top court.
- "Reservation was always envisioned for socially or educationally backward, on the basis of caste. Therefore Supreme Court's judgment applies only to reservation of backward classes," Mr Jaitley said.
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