NEW DELHI: The Lok Sabha on Tuesday passed the 124th Constitution amendment bill, paving the way for 10 per cent quota for economically weaker sections in government jobs and avenues of education. Rejecting the contention that the bill could be challenged in the Supreme Court, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said the Constitution amendments to Article 15 and 16 rule out such apprehensions, unlike on previous occasions when the SC nixed similar attempts.
“The Indira Sawhney judgment of the Supreme Court had ruled that 50 per cent cap on reservation was only for caste based quota provisions in educational institutions and public employment,” Jaitley said during discussions on the bill, while making an intervention. Against the existing social and educational backwardness criteria in the Constitution, which empowers Centre and states to take affirmative action, the bill adds economically backwardness in Article 15 and 16 of the Constitution.
“The Supreme Court had quashed the notifications issued by the P V Narsimha Rao government in 1991 for 10 per cent reservation for economically weaker sections since the move lacked source of power to enable the government to take such an affirmative action. With this bill amending Article 15 and 16, source of powers have been provided to the government at the Centre and states to take affirmative action for the economically weaker sections of the society,” said Jaitley, while reminding the Congress that the Opposition party in its 2014 manifesto had promised to bring a law for 10 per cent reservation for the economically weaker sections.
Jaitley added there is no need for 50 per cent of the states to ratify the bill since the amendments affect the fundamental rights in the part III of the Constitution.Earlier, Union Minister for Social Justice Thawar Chand Gehlot, while moving the bill, stated that 21 private member bills had been brought in Lok Sabha to demand reservation for economically weaker sections of the society. “This is a historic step taken by the government to ensure social amity which will also allow state governments to make similar provisions,” Gehlot added.