The government on Tuesday introduced a Constitution Amendment Bill in the Lok Sabha that seeks to provide 10 per cent reservation for economically backward sections in the general category in government jobs and higher educational institutions.
The introduction of the Constitution (124th Amendment) Bill, 2019 by Social Justice and Empowerment Minister Thawarchand Gehlot was a smooth affair in the House with no member raising any objection.
The Bill, cleared by the Union Cabinet on Monday with an eye on the upper castes vote in the upcoming Lok Sabha elections, seeks to amend Articles 15 and 16 under whose present provisions the benefits of the existing reservations are generally not available for the economically weaker sections of the forward castes.
The statement of objects and reasons appended to the Bill said that the economically weaker sections of citizens have largely remained excluded from attending the higher educational institutions and public employment on account of their financial incapacity to compete with those persons who are economically more privileged.
The benefits of existing reservations under clauses (4) and (5) of Article 15 and clause (4) of Article 16 are generally unavailable to them unless they meet the specific criteria of social and educational backwardness, it said.
The directive principles of State policy contained in Article 46 of the Constitution enjoins that the State shall promote with special care the educational and economic interests of the weaker sections of the people, and, in particular, of the Scheduled Caste and the Scheduled Tribes, and shall protect them from social injustice and all forms of exploitation.
Under the Constitution (93rd Amendment) Act, 2005, clause (5) was inserted in Article 15 of the Constitution which enables the State to make special provision for the advancement of any socially and educationally backward classes of citizens, or for the Scheduled Castes or the Scheduled Tribes, in relation to their admission in higher educational institutions.
Similarly, clause (4) of Article 16 of the Constitution enables the State to make special provision for the reservation of appointments or posts in favour of any backward class of citizens which, in the opinion of the State, is not adequately represented in the services under the State. However, the statement of the objects and reasons said the economically weaker sections of citizens were not eligible for the benefit of reservation.
“With a view to fulfil the mandate of Article 46, and to ensure that economically weaker sections of citizens to get a fair chance of receiving higher education and participation in employment in the services of the State, it has been decided to amend the Constitution of India,” it said.
Accordingly, the Constitution (124th Amendment) Bill, 2019 provides for reservation for the economically weaker sections of society in higher educational institutions, including private institutions aided or unaided by the State other than the minority educational institutions referred to in article 30 of the constitution and also provides for reservation for them in posts in initial appointment in services under the State, the government said in a statement.
The government decision has been described by the opposition as another “election gimmick” to garner votes.