Rajya Sabha clears bill to provide 10% quota for poor: Key highlights

The Upper House nod came following an over nine-hour-long heated debate.

New Delhi: Parliament on Wednesday cleared the Constitutional Amendment Bill guaranteeing 10% quota in education and employment to economically weaker sections in the general category, following an approval by the Rajya Sabha.

The Upper House nod came following an over nine-hour-long heated debate, during which the Opposition accused the government of bringing the Bill in haste with an eye on the coming Lok Sabha election.

Here are the key highlights about this development:

  • The Rajya Sabha passed the Constitution (124th Amendment) Bill, 2019, with 165 ‘ayes’.  Only 7 lawmakers voted against it. In the Lok Sabha on Tuesday, the bill had the support of 323 lawmakers, only three lawmakers were against it.
  • “Delighted the Rajya Sabha has passed The Constitution (One Hundred And Twenty-Fourth Amendment) Bill, 2019. Glad to see such widespread support for the Bill. The House also witnessed a vibrant debate, where several members expressed their insightful opinions,” Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted.
  • Key opposition parties, while supporting the quota for the economically weaker sections, questioned the haste in which bill was drafted and passed. Congress’s Kapil Sibal questioned whether it would stand the scrutiny of the Supreme Court, since it exceeds the 50 per cent cap for quota set by the court.  
  • The Aam Aadmi Party said it had boycotted the voting as the bill, in effect, lets down the economically weaker upper castes. “People earning less than Rs. 8 lakh a year would get 10 per cent quota, but the rest of the upper castes will get 40 per cent seats,” said party leader Sanjay Singh.
  • The government has argued that since the bill provides reservation on basis of income, not caste, it was not subject to the 50 per cent bar. There, however, have been instances where an economic bar has been struck down by the Supreme Court and the high courts.
  • Explaining the timing of the bill, PM Modi said elections are held in the country every few months. “So when should I have done this? This is why I keep it on saying that state and central elections should happen together,” he said at a rally in Agra.
  • Rajya Sabha was temporarily adjourned on Wednesday morning as the Congress and several other parties demanded that the bill be sent to a select committee for scrutiny. The demand was supported by Lalu Yadav’s Rashtriya Janata Dal, the Left Front and Tamil Nadu’s opposition DMK.
  • The bill, however, exposed rifts within the opposition, which is trying to project a united front to take on the BJP in the national elections late this year. Akhilesh Yadav’s Samajwadi Party and Mayawati’s Bahujan Samaj Party have refused to back the demand for scrutiny by a select parliamentary committee.
  • A constitution amendment bill has to be passed with two-thirds majority in each house. Because the constitution does not provide for reservation on the ground of economic conditions, an amendment is required.
  • The bill is expected to benefit a huge section of upper castes — including Brahmins, Rajputs (Thakurs), Jats, Marathas, Bhumihars, and several traders belonging to the Kapu and Kamma communities. The economically deprived among the other religions will also benefit.