A landmark Constitutional amendment bill seeking to provide 10 per cent reservation in jobs and education for the economically backward in upper castes (general category) was passed by the Lok Sabha, with most parties supporting the measure, described by the government as "historic" and in the country's interest. As many as 323 members voted in support of bill and only three voted against, underlining the cross-party support the politically crucial bill elicited.
Lok Sabha passes Constitution (124 Amendment) Bill, 2019 with 323 'ayes'. The bill will provide reservation for economically weaker section of the society in higher educational institutions pic.twitter.com/mzsHxQoUva— ANI (@ANI) January 8, 2019
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.
“The Modi government's policy and intention is good and that is why it has enabled the reservation for the poor in the general category with constitutional amendment,” he said, seeking support of all parties for the passage of The Constitution (124th Amendment) Bill 2019.
"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.
Modi and Congress president Rahul Gandhi were present in the House when the bill was passed. The government will table the bill in the Rajya Sabha on Wednesday.
Rajnath Singh: It's a historic bill. Those people who couldn't get the benefits of reservation till now will be benefited. It had been a demand of people since a long time. This bill has been brought in interest of the nation. I'm assured that it'll be passed in Rajya Sabha also pic.twitter.com/S61LobNHHP— ANI (@ANI) January 8, 2019
Earlier in the day, Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley said almost every political party had supported the bill. “I request all to support the motion,” he said. He even pulled out the Congress’s manifesto for the 2014 elections and asked the grand old party to "walk its talk" by supporting the bill.
"The bill will enable social upliftment and will benefit a large section of the society," he said and added “just how equals cannot be treated unequally, similarly unequals cannot be treated equally”.
The Finance Minister also rejected suggestions that the measure may fall foul of a Supreme Court judgment putting a cap of 50 per cent at the total quota. The 50 per cent bar, he added, is for caste-based reservations, while the bill seeks quota for the economically weaker sections in the general category.
Taking a jibe at opposition parties for their protests, he said if they are supporting the bill, they should be whole-hearted and not grudgingly doing it.
He also added the bill, once passed by Parliament, will come into effect and would not be required to be ratified by state assemblies. The BJP in its manifesto also supported the measure and is now working to implement it, he said, adding Constitution makers also spoke about equality of status and opportunity.
(With PTI inputs)