The Parliament on Tuesday unanimously passed the bill to restore the power of states and union territories to prepare and maintain their own list of socially and educationally backward classes (SEBCs).
The Constitution (One Hundred and Twenty Seventh Amendment) Bill, 2021 was passed in Rajya Sabha amid demand from opposition parties for caste census and raising the cap on reservation above 50 per cent.
The bill was unanimously passed by Lok Sabha on Tuesday following a division. Participating in the debate on the bill, Leader of Opposition in the Rajya Sabha Mallikarjun Kharge said it should have a provision that states can give reservation above the cap of 50 per cent.
He said the backlog of vacancies for Other Backward Classes should be filled.
As in the Lok Sabha, the opposition parties decided to “cooperate with the government in passing the bill and suspended their protest in the House over their demand for a probe into allegations of surveillance through Pegasus spyware and repeal of farm laws.
The opposition parties have been protesting and forcing adjournments since the beginning of the monsoon session over their demands.
Replying to the debate on the bill, Social Justice and Empowerment Minister Virendra Kumar said there was unanimous support for the bill and it was historic.
He said Social Economic and Caste Census (SECC) data based on the 2011 census was has been used in welfare schemes of the Narendra Modi government including Ujjwala and Ayushman Bharat.
The division took place through voting slips as the House has a special seating arrangement as part of precautions against COVID-19. The process of providing voting slips to members and collecting them took time.
The bill was passed by a majority of the total membership of the House and by a majority of not less than two-thirds of the members of that House present and voting.
The Parliament had in August 2018 passed a constitution amendment bill to give constitutional status to National Commission for Backward Classes.
Initiating the discussion in the upper House, Congress leader Abhishek Manu Singhvi said that the government had brought the bill to get over a lacuna “it had left” in the 2018 bill.
He said the opposition parties had repeatedly told the government when the bill was being passed the powers of states on preparing the OBC list should be protected.
He said the government should increase the reservation ceiling beyond 50 per cent.
Sushil Kumar Modi of BJP said Congress did not give constitutional status to OBC Commission during its rule.
Demand for increasing reservation ceiling was made by several opposition members including from DMK and Shiv Sena.
Sanjay Raut of Shiv Sena also raised the issue of the Maratha reservation.