The Union Cabinet approved a 10% reservation for the economically backward and weaker sections of the society within the general category irrespective of their region, caste, creed etc. for jobs and educational institutions. Earlier this section was not eligible for any form of reservation. This additional 10% reservation is over and above the existing reservation for SC/ST/OBCs.
This additional reservation is exceeding the present 50% reservation; the Government is required to introduce and pass a constitutional amendment bill in the House. Towards implementing this decision, Article 15 and Article 16 of the Indian Constitution needs to be amended.
This additional reservation entitles people with income less than Rs. 8 lakh per annum or people who have land less than five acres to avail the benefits of this reservation. These people were not availing any form of reservation in jobs or educational institutions earlier.
This Bill was easily passed in the Lok Sabha with 323 votes for the Bill and only 3 voting against the Bill. The next day the Bill also got approval from the Rajya Sabha after a 9-hour long marathon debate, wherein the Bill was passed after clearing the required two-thirds majority, with the Rajya Sabha voted in favor of the bill with 165 votes for the Bill and 7 against it.
While the opposition parties have questioned the intention of introducing and passing the Bill at such speed, the Opposition claims that this decision has been taken in haste just before the Lok Sabha elections slated for later this year. The ruling BJP-Government termed this Bill as important legislation, and Prime Minister Narendra Modi also termed passing of the Bill as a ‘victory for social justice’.
However, soon after the Bill was passed in both houses before it could be signed by the President, a petition has been filed in the Supreme Court by Youth for Equality, an NGO and Kaushal Kant Mishra. This petition claims that the Bill violates the basic features of the Indian Constitution, as a ceiling for 50% was being breached, and reservation on the economic ground cannot be only limited within the General Category only.
While the Bill is yet to turn into a Law as it is yet to receive the Presidential nod, it might be delayed until the Supreme Court verdict on the matter. However, the exact nature of how will the bill be implemented as there is no clarity how will this additional quota be structured. According to a Ministry of Human Resource Development Report, the modalities of implementation of the additional quota are under progress. The Ministry might consider increasing seats in the educational institution by another 10 lakh, towards ensuring that the additional quota does not affect the additional number of seats within the General Category. However, whether the Bill is converting into law or the total number of seats in educational institutions will be increased, only time can provide the country with the answer it needs.