A day after Lok Sabha passed a landmark bill to provide 10 per cent reservation in jobs and education for the general category poor, the government will table the bill in Rajya Sabha on Wednesday as the Constitution (103rd Amendment) Bill. With most parties backing the proposed legislation, the government has described the bill as "historic" and in the country's interest.
The opposition, including the Congress, dubbed the proposed law as a political gimmick that may not stand judicial scrutiny but came around to support it during voting, underlining the huge political import of the measure aimed at placating upper castes.
As many as 323 members voted in support of the bill, which seeks to amend Article 15 and 16 of the Constitution to enable reservation for the "economically weaker" sections in the general category, which had so far been kept out of the quota ambit. Three members voted against the bill.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Congress president Rahul Gandhi were present in the Lower House when the bill was passed.
Replying to an over four and half hour debate, Social Justice Minister Thaavarchand Gehlot sought to allay doubts raised by several opposition members about the legislation's fate if challenged in the Supreme Court, saying he can say with confidence that the apex court will accept it. "Your doubts are unfounded. Put them to rest," he told opposition members, many of whom dubbed the bill as "jumla" and "gimmick", questioned its legal standing and accused the government of bringing it in haste with an eye on the Lok Sabha polls.
Making an intervention during the debate, Union minister Arun Jaitley informed the House that this constitutional amendment bill will not go to state assemblies for ratification, meaning that it will come into force after the Upper House passes it and the President gives his assent. Certain constitutional amendment bills require ratification from 50 per cent of state assemblies to come into force.
The bar of 50 per cent put by the apex court on the total reservation is for caste-based quota, while the bill seeks it provide it for the economically weaker sections in the general category, Jaitley said. Describing the bill as a political gimmick, opposition parties led by the Congress expressed apprehension that such a law may not stand judicial scrutiny.
Citing P V Narasimha Rao's government effort to bring in 10 per cent reservation on the basis of economic criteria, K V Thomas (Cong) said it was struck down by the Supreme Court.
This legislation has been made in haste and has so many lacunas, he said, adding, it should be sent to Joint Parliamentary Committee for examination. "It was only yesterday that Union Cabinet approved the Constitution Amendment for 10 per cent quota for poor under the general category on an economic basis and was introduced in Parliament today. It raises the question on the sincerity of the government," he said. It seems to be political 'jumla' to win the election, he added.