The Union Cabinet on Monday approved a Constitution Amendment Bill to provide 10% reservation to the 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 the Scheduled Castes, the Scheduled Tribes and the Other Backward Classes (OBC). The decision, which comes ahead of the general election in April-May, was taken at a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The specific details of the Bill were not available as there was no word from the government after the meeting. A press briefing scheduled for the evening was cancelled. The reservation is for those castes that now do not avail themselves of quota in any category.
Bill likely today Vijay Sampla, Minister of State, Social Justice and Empowerment, told The Hindu that those who have an annual salary of less than Rs. 8 lakh per year and possess less than 5 acres of land will be able to avail themselves of 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 winter session. The sitting of the Rajya Sabha has been extended till January 9. Articles 15 and 16 of the Constitution will have to be amended for the implementation of the decision, the Minister said. A nine-judge Constitutional Bench of the Supreme Court had, in the Indira Sawhney case, capped reservation at 50%. The court had ruled on November 16, 1992, that “clause (4) of Article 16 of the Constitution speaks of adequate representation and not proportionate representation” and “relaxation can be done in extraordinary 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 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.