Upper Caste Reservation Bill: Why states can’t stop Modi’s masterstroke

By: | Published: January 10, 2019 9:15 AM

Reservation bill: Unlike the GST law, the upper caste quota bill will not require ratification by half the state assemblies.

Reservation BillPrime Minister Narendra Modi (PTI Photo). Parliament has powers to amend, repeal or cause variation in any part of the Constitution as per Article 368.

The Modi government will not have to wait for ratification by state assemblies to implement the constitution amendment bill that provides for 10% reservation for economically weaker sections of the society. The bill will come into force after receiving presidential ascent as it does not amend those provisions of the Constitution that have a bearing on the federal nature of Indian state, unlike the GST law that required ratification by half the state assemblies.

The 124th Constitutional Amendment Bill which was passed by the Lok Sabha on Tuesday cleared the Rajya Sabha hurdle on Wednesday with most parties supporting the legislation. Rajya Sabha passed the bill with 165 members supporting the bill and only 7 voting against it. While Arvind Kejriwal’s Aam Admi Party and AIADMK staged a walk out, Lalu Prasad Yadav’s Rashtriya Janta Dal, DMK and Indian Union Muslim League voted against it.

Before voting, a senior Rajya Sabha Member of DMK told Financial Express Online that the party would vote against the bill as it was against their understanding of social justice. But regional parties opposing the bill are not in a position to stall or delay its implementation unlike the GST law that required ratification by half the states as it altered the constitutional arrangement of tax collection by the centre and states.

Parliament can alter part III of the constitution without ratification by states

As per the article 368 of the constitution, the Parliament has powers to amend, repeal or cause variation in any part of the constitution as per the laid down procedure. However, the Parliament requires ratification by half of state assemblies in certain cases that are listed under clause (2) of article 368.

As per article 368, clause (2), sub clauses (a) to (e), the government will require support of at least half of state assemblies if it seeks to amend the provisions of article 54, 55, 73, 162, 241 and article 279A or any provisions mentioned in the 4th chapter part V, or the fifth chapter of part VI or the provisions listed in the 1st chapter of part XI, or makes any changes in the lists in the seventh schedule of the constitution or proposes to change the representation of states in Parliament. It will also require the support of half the state assemblies if the central government seeks to amend any provision of the article 368 itself.

In this case, the government has only amended article 15 and 16 listed in the part III of Indian Constitution that basically deals with the fundamental rights.

States can’t oppose but will have power to fix income criteria

Law minister Ravi Shankar Prasad clarified that this bill will not require ratification by state assemblies but the states will be free to decide the criteria of income, land holding or other relevant economic indicators for giving 10% reservation to general candidates from economically weaker sections.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had also clarified in the Lok Sabha that unlike the GST law, this constitutional amendment bill will not require ratification by half of state assemblies as the government has not proposed to amend any provisions listed in the sub clauses (a) to (e) of clause 2 of article 368 under part XX of Indian constitution.

Government rules out legal hurdle

Jaitley has also ruled out any legal hurdles as the proposed quota deals with economically weaker sections of society and its benefits will not be denied to any citizen only on the basis of caste, race, religions, place of birth etc. He has clarified that the ceiling of 50% imposed by the Supreme Court on quota was only applicable to the reservation given to SC/STs and other socially and educationally backward classes.

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