LS clears scrapping of backlog vacancies ceiling

NEW DELHI: The Lok Sabha on Wednesday passed by a two-thirds majority a constitution amendment Bill seeking to end the 50 per cent ceiling on reservation in backlog vacancies provided under an official memorandum of 1997.

The Constitution (19th Amendment) Bill, 2000 was passed by 418 members in favour and one against it.

Replying to a marathon debate on the issue of reservation for scheduled castes, scheduled tribes and other backward classes, law minister Ram Jethmalani assured the House that the government would make all out efforts to ensure that validity of over 50 per cent reservation, now under challenge in the Supreme Court, is sustained.

According to the statement of objects and reasons, the government decided to amend the Constitution so that unfilled vacancies of a year, reserved to be filled in that year, would be considered as a separate class to be filled in any succeeding year or years.

Such class of vacancies would not be considered together with the vacancies of the year in which they are being filled up for determining the ceiling of 50 per cent reservation on total number of vacancies of that year, it said.

The official memorandum of August 29, 1997 following a Supreme Court judgement in Indra Sawhney versus Union of India case was issued to provide that the 50 per cent limit shall apply to current as well as `backlog vacancies' and for discontinuation of the special recruitment drive.

Due to the adverse effects of the 1997 order, various organisations including MPs had represented to the Centre for protecting the interests of the SCs and STs.

Responding to the contention of Muslim League member G M Banatwala that the Bill was a `great national betrayal', Jethmalani said the word `backlog' was not being added to the main Bill and was part of the statement of objects and reasons appended to it as otherwise the statute could become ambiguous because the law has to apply to SCs, STs as well as to OBCs.

The amendment moved by Banatwala was rejected by the House by a voice vote.

The minister told the House that even if the Supreme Court ultimately held that reservation limit should not exceed the 50 per cent, the government would take measures to provide higher percentage of reservation.

The government was also taking steps to undo the adverse effects of four other office memoranda relating to reservation issued in 1997, minister of state for personnel Vasudhara Raje, who had moved the Bill, said.

Interrupting Jethmalani's reply, Congress member Mani Shankar Aiyer wanted the credit for 69 per cent reservation policy to go to the previous Jayalalitha government in Tamil Nadu. The minister conceded after AIADMK leader P H Pandian sought to clarify the issue saying that the credit should go to whichever government that had brought forward the policy.

Jethmalani also had a dig at the Congress saying that nothing was done when the Supreme Court in the Balaji case in 1963 had put the reservation limit at 50 per cent. (PTI)

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