Parliament approves 10-year extension to SC, ST reservation; Anglo-Indian nomination dropped

Published - December 12, 2019 10:38 pm IST - NEW DELHI

Parliament on Thursday passed a Constitutional amendment giving a 10-year extension to reservations for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in the Lok Sabha and State assemblies and ending the provision for nomination of two Anglo-Indians to the Lower House and assemblies.

The Constitution (One Hundred and Twenty-Sixth Amendment) Bill, 2019, was passed unanimously by the Rajya Sabha, two days after it was passed by the Lok Sabha. All 163 members present voted to pass the amendment, after a heated exchange between the ruling party and the Opposition. While the Congress and All-India Trinamool Congress (TMC) MPs staged a walkout during Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad’s reply, they returned in time to vote.

The Bill extended the reservation for SCs and STs in the Lok Sabha and State assemblies, which was due to end on January 25, 2020, for a period of 10 years, the seventh such 10-year extension given since the Constitution was enacted in 1950. However, the Bill also ended the provision for nomination of Anglo-Indians to the Lok Sabha and Assemblies “seventy years from the commencement of this Constitution”, that is January 2020.

While all members supported the Bill, they also asked the government to reconsider scrapping of the nomination of Anglo-Indians to legislatures. Derek O’Brien of the TMC cited the contribution of the Anglo-Indian community, saying that he was speaking as a member of the community for the first time in 15 years.

Countering Mr. Prasad’s statement that the population of Anglo-Indians was 296 today, down from 1,11,637 in 1951, Mr. O’Brien said the number was “3.5 lakh”. Observing that the government had claimed that there were zero Anglo-Indians in Uttarakhand, Jharkhand and Madhya Pradesh, the TMC member wondered how four Anglo-Indian MLAs had been nominated by the BJP in these States.

Leader of the Opposition Ghulam Nabi Azad said the entire Opposition supported the extension of the SC and ST reservations, but the Bill was committing “injustice” on the other hand when it came to the Anglo-Indians.

He said there was a need for economic and social protection and political empowerment for these communities, adding that “my community” had not had any political empowerment in the past six years. The BJP had not given a ticket to any Muslims for the Lok Sabha elections, he said. He said the government should retain the Anglo-Indian nominees and also provide 33% reservation for women in legislatures.

In his reply, Mr. Prasad said he acknowledged the contribution of the Anglo-Indian community and that that was not reduced by removing the nominees. On Mr. Azad’s assertion that Muslims were not being politically empowered since the BJP came to power in 2014, Mr. Prasad questioned the Congress’s record and said that the party had opposed the ban on triple talaq. This led to a heated exchange, leading to a walkout by the Congress members, followed by the TMC.

When he returned to the House to vote, Mr. Azad said: “We get hurt sometimes. There has to be mutual respect. My submission to the ministers is that Opposition can only speak, you have the power to govern. You cannot compete with the Opposition, that they hurled 10 abuses and you will hurl 20. You need the patience to listen and 90% the government should ignore.”

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