The Union Cabinet on Monday approved a Constitution Amendment Bill to provide 10% reservation to economically backward sections in the general category, a senior government official said. The Bill will also cover those from the Muslim, Sikh, Christian, Buddhist and other minority communities. The quota will be over and above the existing 50% reservation to Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Classes (OBC).
The decision that comes ahead of the general elections in April-May, was taken at a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday.
The specific details of the Bill were not available as there was no official word from the government after the Cabinet meeting. A press briefing scheduled for the evening was cancelled. The reservation is for those castes who presently do not avail reservation in any category.
Bill on Tuesday
Vijay Sampla, Minister of State, Social Justice and Empowerment, told The Hindu that those who have an annual salary of less than ₹8 lakh per year and possess less than 5 acres of land will be able to avail reservation in educational institutions and jobs.
The government is likely to introduce the Bill in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday, the last working day of the ongoing winter session. Articles 15 and 16 of the Constitution will have to be amended for implementation of the decision, the official added.
A nine-judge Constitutional Bench of the Supreme Court had in the Indira Sawhney case capped the reservation at 50%.
The court had ruled on November 16, 1992, that “clause (4) of Article 16 of Constitution speaks of adequate representation and not proportionate representation” and “relaxation can be done in extra-ordinary situations and while doing so, extreme caution has to be exercised and a special case made out.”
According to the 2011 census, the population of the country was 1.21 billion. The population of the Scheduled Castes was 201.4 million and that of the Scheduled Tribes stood at 104.3 million.
Reacting to the Cabinet decision, the Congress said it agreed with the principle of helping the poor in getting access to education and jobs but questioned the Modi government’s intent.
‘Where are the jobs?’
Addressing a press conference, Congress communication chief Randeep Surjewala asked why the decision had been taken when there are only 100 days to the next Lok Sabha election.
“We are committed to giving opportunity, reservation and employment to the poor. But the youth of the country are asking basic questions to Modi ji. Where are the job opportunities,” asked Mr. Surjewala.