Lok Sabha on Tuesday unanimously passed a Constitution amendment bill to extend reservation to SCs and STs in Lok Sabha and state assemblies by another 10 years even though the opposition slammed the government for not giving the benefit to the Anglo-Indian community.
Responding to the debate on the Constitution (126th) Amendment Bill, Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad asserted that quota in legislatures for SCs and STs was required to build a new political leadership of the two communities.
He also said that the government is against the concept of "creamy layer" for the SC, ST communities as they are anyway backward and should not be "segregated" on such lines.
Bill Passed With 352 Votes in Favour
A few days ago, the government had urged the Supreme Court to reconsider its stand that socially, educationally and economically advanced cream of Scheduled Castes/Scheduled Tribes (SC/ST) communities should be excluded from the benefits of reservation in government services.
The bill was passed with 352 members voting in favour and none against it.
The reservation for SCs, STs and Anglo-Indians given for the past 70 years in Lok Sabha and state assemblies was due to end on 25 January 25 2020.
The reservation for Anglo-Indians in the form of “nomination” is set to expire on 25 January as the bill does not extend the facility to the community.
Prasad, however, said the doors are not shut and the matter to grant Anglo-Indians nomination would be considered. Prime Minister Narendra Modi was present in the House when members voted for the measure.
Congress president Sonia Gandhi and party leader Rahul Gandhi were not present, prompting BJP members to take a jibe at opposition benches.
Why Anglo-Indian Community Excluded?
Since it was a Constitution amendment bill, the voting took place through division. The bill, once passed by Rajya Sabha would be sent to states for ratification by 50 per cent of the assemblies before it comes into force.
Supporting the extension of reservation for SCs and STs in legislatures, various Opposition members, however, questioned the government on not extending similar benefit to the Anglo-Indian community. They also questioned that India has only 296 Anglo-Indians.
Hitting back, the minister said when the same census report puts the figure of SCs and STs at over 20 crore and 10 crore respectively, the opposition accepts it. But when the same census puts Anglo-Indians at 296, the opposition questions the report. He said the matter to grant them nomination in legislatures again would be considered.
He said the matter to grant them nomination in legislatures again would be considered.
Under Article 334, SC, STs and Anglo-Indians were were given reservation in legislature for 70 years, till 25 January 2020. There are 84 members from the Scheduled Caste and 47 from the Scheduled Tribe communities in Parliament.
There are 84 members from the Scheduled Caste and 47 from the Scheduled Tribe communities in Parliament. In state assemblies across India, there are 614 SC members and 554 ST members.
‘Govt Snatched Rights of Smallest Minority in India’: Congress
Accusing the government of snatching the rights of India's "smallest minority community", the Anglo-Indians, the Congress on Tuesday, 10 December, alleged that the government was shedding "crocodile tears" over the minority communities facing discrimination in neighbouring countries.
"“While the government shed crocodile tears over the plight of the minorities in the neighbouring countries during the passage of the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill, they denied the rights of India’s smallest minority - the Anglo-Indians - the next day,” " - Manish Tewari, Congress MP
The Constitution "envisaged by Babasaheb Ambedkar... had this provision of nominating them to two seats in Lok Sabha and the Assemblies of 13 states. Now, with this amendment, the provision for the community has been finished," he said.
The reservation for SCs, STs and Anglo-Indians given for the past 70 years in Lok Sabha and state assemblies was due to end on January 25, 2020.
The reservation for Anglo-Indians in the form of "nomination" is set to expire on January 25 next year as the Bill does not extend the facility to the community.
“There is a basic constitutional question on this. Can the Union government through a Bill take away the right of nominations of the state Assemblies without the approval of the state governments? This is a attack on the federal structure of the country,” said Tewari.
He also said that while the home minister was giving a detailed speech in Parliament on the rights of the minorities in neighbouring countries, he didn't "blink" before taking away the rights of a minority community in India.
"They are the smallest minority and have very limited rights and you want to snatch away these rights as well. This bill is as unconstitutional as the Citizenship (Amendment) Bill and is against the basic tenets of the Constitution. So, whenever this Bill comes to the House, the Congress party will oppose it," Tewari said.
Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad, while presenting the bill, however, said that the doors are not shut and the matter to grant Anglo-Indians nomination would be considered.
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