The Rajya Sabha on Thursday approved a constitutional amendment extending seat reservation for Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs) in the Lok Sabha and assemblies by 10 years.
The Constitution (126th Amendment) Bill, 2019, was passed with all 163 votes recorded going in its favour and none in opposition or abstention.
The bill, which was supported by members cutting across party lines during voting, however, saw strong opposition from members during the debate, largely on the issue of exclusion of Anglo-Indians from the extension of reservation as well as the broader issue of the progress of the SC and ST community in the country.
“It’s been time and again said that the Modi government will scrap reservation system. We want to say it clearly that the Modi government will never scrap reservation system. It is also been said that the Modi government is distorting Constitution. This is absolutely wrong," Union law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said.
The bill will now have to be passed by half of all the legislative assemblies in the country. Following this, President Ram Nath Kovind’s assent will make it law.
Earlier in the day, Trinamool Congress leader Derek O’Brien raised the issue of exclusion of Anglo-Indians from the reservation purview. “I will withdraw whatever I say if you try and find a constitutional way to keep the other two reservations because otherwise we will know the mask is off. Please do not pit minorities against minorities," O’Brien said.
“I acknowledge the contribution of Anglo-Indians in education, armed forces, but when you acknowledge 20 crore SCs and 10 crore STs according to census, then why do you disbelieve the figures for Anglo-Indians? We have said already that it is under consideration," Prasad said.
Congress members staged a walkout after this comment, but returned for voting after Rajya Sabha chairman M. Venkaiah Naidu appealed to them to return, stating that this was a constitutional amendment bill and should see attendance from all parties in voting.
Prasad also said the government aimed to have an All India Judicial Services on the lines of central civil services such as the Indian Administrative Services and the Indian Police Services.