The Constitution (One Hundred And Twenty Fourth Amendment) Bill, 2019

Author: Kritika Anand, 3rd Year, BBA LL.B, New Law College, Bharati Vidyapeeth Deemed to be University. The article has been written by the author while pursuing the internship programme with us. Introduction The Minister of Social Justice and Empowerment, Mr. Thaawar Chand Gehlot, introduced the 124th Constitutional Amendment Bill 2019. The bill was introduced to both the houses of Parliament, on 8th January, 2019 in Lok Sabha and on 9th January, 2019 in Rajya Sabha and were passed by both the houses. In Lok Sabha on 9th January, 2019 and Rajya Sabha on 10th January, 2019. President Ram Nath Kovind gave his assent to the bill on 12th January, 2019. After the assent from the President, the act finally came into force on 14th January, 2019 as 103rd amendment act of the Indian Constitution. In Lok Sabha the bill received 323 votes in favor of the bill and only 3 votes against it, from the 326 members who were present. While voting for the bill in Rajya Sabha, 165 members voted in the favor of the bill and 7 members voted against it. Brief on 124th constitutional amendment bill The bill provides 10% reservation in government jobs and admissions in aided, as well as unaided, educational institutions for economically backward people among upper castes (general category). This bill comes under Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment. This amendment seeks to provide an addition to the reservation available for SC, ST & OBC’s and further reservation is extended to an additional 10% for the people belonging to Economically Weaker Sections. For those people who are within the general category and do not come under any other reservation quota, It is the duty and responsibility of the state to provide for certain backward sections of the society if, in the opinion of the government, those sections of the society are facing economic disadvantages. Article 46 which comes under the Directive Principles of State Policy supports the bill as Article 46 speaks about promotion of educational and economic interests of Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and other backward sections. Also it is the states responsibility to promote with special care the educational and economic interests of the weaker sections of the society. Since the word ‘weaker section’ is mentioned here, economic weakness should also be taken as a criteria for the reservation. Insertion of clause (6) in Article 15 Article 15 states that the State should not discriminate against any person on the five grounds that are of sex, religion, caste, race and place of birth. Article 15 Clause (6) consist of two sub-clause (1)&(2) which speaks about special provisions made for the economically weaker sections relating to their admissions in educational institute, including private educational institutes or those aided or unaided by the State; with an explanation stating that “economically weaker sections” will be determined by the State from time to time, on the basis of annual income of the family and other indications of economic disadvantages. The provision seeks to add a reservation of up to 10% for Economically Weaker Sections in educational institutions; including private, whether aided or unaided by the state, except minority institutions. This provision gives freedom to the state to decide up to what percentage the reservation can be given, however, this cannot exceed 10%. Insertion of clause (6) in Article 16 Article 16 states that there must be equality in the opportunity for government employment and that there should not be any kind of discrimination regarding government jobs meaning all people should be treated equally. So providing reservation for employment isn’t adequate but Article 16 clause (4) states that the State should decide certain reservation for backward sections of the society. Here, the backward sections are those sections which are socially and educationally backward. The provision seeks to add a reservation in government jobs up to 10% for Economically Weaker Sections over and above the existing reservation quota of 49.5% therefore increasing the total reservation to 59.5% (49.5% + 10%). Criterion for reservation for Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) Economically Weaker Sections will be determined by the state at regular intervals on criterion such as the annual income of a person being less than Rs. 8 lakhs or other indications of economical disadvantages such as owning less than 5 acres of agricultural land, and owning lesser than 1,000 sq. ft. residential land in a town ( or 100 sq. yard in a notified municipality area or 200 sq. yard in a non-notified municipality area). Significance: ●The amendment provides an addition of clause 6 (1) & (2) in Article 15 and clause 6 in Article 16 of the Indian Constitution ● This bill proposes to add 10% reservations for the Economically Weaker Sections over and above the pre-existing reservation of 49.5% for the Scheduled Caste, Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward classes which consists of SC 15 %, ST 7.5% and OBC’s 27%. ● All the upper caste people who were economically backward will get to attend higher education and public employment. ● This act will provide equality to those who belong to economically weaker section within the upper castes. ● It isn’t always the case that every upper caste citizen is financially stable. With this amendment the upper caste poor will get reservation of up to 10%. ● This will also help in eliminating the prejudice related to reservation, which upper caste students felt towards the students who came in through reservation in educational institutions. Arguments raised due to the bill In the Keshavananda Bharati vs State of Kerala (1973)[1] case, for the first time court spoke about the ‘Basic Structure of the Constitution’, as Article 368 of Indian constitution has given the power to the parliament to amend any part of the constitution, including fundamental rights. However the Supreme court had stated that having this power does not mean that it can modify anything or everything arbitrarily. Modification must be done without disturbing the basic structure of the constitution. The act provides benefit of reservation to those who are socially and educationally backward and provide equal opportunity to those people who are poor within the upper castes. Therefore, the act does not disturb the basic structure of the constitution, as the purpose of the act is to promote equality and opportunity of higher education and public employment. In the case of PA Inamdar vs State of Maharashtra[2], Supreme court held that no private, unaided educational institutions will be imposed with reservation by the government. But contrary to this judgement; the bill seeks to include private, unaided educational institutions under the purview of the amendment. Also, In case of Indra sawhney vs Union of India (1993)[3], the Supreme court made it clear that reservation should not exceed 50% and economic backwardness can not be the criteria for reservation. Even after the precedence being present in the said matter, the bill was shown a green flag from both the houses. Although, many amendments have been struck down before, stating that reservation can not exceed 50%. Conclusion In conclusion, the main aim of this bill is to provide an equal opportunity to those who falls under the criterion of Economically Weaker Sections. As there are provision made for the upliftment of Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward classes, but no provision made for the poor within upper castes of the society. With this act they will be getting equal opportunity for higher education and public employment. However there are many concerns raised as due to this act a large number of people will fall under it’s criterion, which will eventually weaken the opportunities for public employment of those who do not come under any reservation quotas. Also, it is important that reservations are implemented only for a certain period of time and not for eternity. Other alternatives should also be explored as reservation cannot be the only course of action. REFERENCES: [1] Kesavanand Bharati vs State of Kerala, A.I.R. 1973 S.C. 1461 (India). [2] P.A Inamdar vs State of Maharashtra, (2004) 8 S.C.C. 139 (India). [3] Indra Sawhney & others vs Union of India, A.I.R. 1993 S.C. 477 (India). DISCLAIMER: Views and opinions as expressed in the Research Articles are solely of the author and any member of the core team of the website shall not be liable for the same.

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