Quota bill won’t affect 50% cap on reservation for backward classes : Ravi Shankar Prasad

New Delhi: Union Law and Justice Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on Wednesday said that 10 per cent quota in jobs and education for the economically weaker sections in the general category will not affect the Supreme Court’s ruling of 50 per cent cap on reservation for backward classes (BCs).

Speaking in the Rajya Sabha during the discussion on the Constitution (124th Amendment) Bill, 2019, the Minister said the legislation will apply to both Central and state governments. “There is no 50 per cent reservation limitation in the Constitution, it was defined by the Supreme Court. In this bill, we are changing two articles on fundamental rights. We are adding a clause in the Article 15 of the Constitution in which we talk about the economically weaker sections. We will give opportunities in education to these people in private and public schools and colleges.

“And clause six is being added to Article 16 of the Constitution in which we are giving space to the economically weaker sections in addition to SCs and STs. The biggest feature of the bill is that the existing reservation for SC/ST and backward classes will remain untouched and it is not being changed,” Prasad said. The Minister appreciated that most of the parties have extended their support to the bill but raised a query as to “why the members have doubts over the limitations of Parliament’s rights”, and added that “both Houses of the Parliament have the right to create law”.

Citing Article 368 of the Constitution, the Minister said: “Parliament may exercise its constituent powers to amend, make addition and variation and repeal any provision of the Constitution.” Prasad, however, noted that the only boundation in it is that “we cannot change the basic structure of the Constitution”.

Clarifying on DMK MP Kanimozhi’s question why states were not consulted before the bill was brought in the Lok Sabha, the Minister said: “If the Parliament is amending the fundamental right chapter under Article 368, there is no obligation to go to the state Vidhan Sabha. This was a part of the Constitution as framed in 1949-1950.”

Reading Article 46 of the Constitution, he said: “The state shall promote special care … for the economically weaker sections of the people.” Replying to the questions raised by some members about why this bill was brought now, Prasad said: “We brought the bill late, but showed our courage. We brought it in a proper way. If the bill has been brought by us, you should support openly. This is a historic bill.” The Bill was passed in the Lok Sabha on Tuesday and moved in the Rajya Sabha for passage by Social Justice Minister Thaawar Chand Gehlot.

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