The Rajya Sabha today passed the124th Constitution amendment bill providing 10% reservation in jobs and higher education to economically backward sections from all communities. The Lok Sabha had already passed the bill on 8th January 2019, which means the amendment will be incorporated in the Constitution of India, and the reservation has now legislative sanction of the parliament. The bill will formally become a law after the President of India signs it.
Out of total 172 members present in the house, 165 MPs supported the bill, while the rest 7 voted against it. Before voting on the bill, the House voted against a motion to send the bill to select committee.
As Congress and most other opposition parties had voted for the bill in Lok Sabha yesterday, it was expected that the bill will be passed by the upper house also.
The 124th Constitution amendment bill was cleared by the union cabinet on 7th December, which seeks to extend to benefit of reservation to those people not covered under existing reservation for SCs, STs and OBCs. The reservation will ne extended to all people from all communities and religions, including Muslims and Christians, not just “upper caste” as some media houses are reporting.
Other than the parties in ruling NDA, most opposition parties including Congress, SP supported the bill. Congress said that they had to support the bill as they had promised reservation for economically weaker sections in their election manifesto. Although most opposition parties voted for the bill, they questioned government’s intention in bringing the bill just one day ahead of the conclusion of the winter session of parliament, and not sending the bill for a joint committee or select committee. Several MPs participating in the debate on the bill wondered whether the bill will pass judicial scrutiny, as it exceeds the reservation ceiling of 50%. The Rajya Sabha session was extended by a day to ensure that the bill can be passed in the current session itself.
The bill amends the articles 15 and 16 of the Constitution of India, making provision for reservation for educational institutes and jobs respectively. This reservation will be additional to the existing 50% reservation provided for people from Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Castes. The economical backward has been defined as anyone with an annual income below ₹8 lakhs, apart from clauses on landholding. The ₹8 lakh limit is at per with the existing limit for the creamy layer of OBCs.
The government has announced the seats in higher educational institutions will be increased by 10%, to ensure that meritorious students do not get harmed by this new reservation. The reservation in higher educational institutions will be extended to private institutions also, whether aided or unaided. But the minority educational institutions will be exempt from the reservation as per provisions of article 30 of the constitution.