States can define economically weaker sections: Prasad

Union Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad

Law Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on Wednesday said the states will be free to fix criteria for defining the economically weaker sections in the general category who can avail of reservation.

Intervening in the debate in Rajya Sabha on The Constitution (124th Amendment) Bill that provides for 10% quota for economically weaker sections, Prasad said the Constitution will give the states powers to fix that, he said.

The note presented before the Union Cabinet on Monday had said that an annual income of less than Rs 8 lakh and not owning more than five acres of agricultural land as criteria for defining economically weaker section in the general category for availing of the reservation in educational institutions as well as government jobs.

For instance, a state can fix annual income of Rs 5 lakh as the criteria for availing of the reservation in jobs and educational institutions, he said.

And this quota in the general category will be applicable to jobs in both central and state governments, he added.

On Opposition criticism that it has brought the bill with an eye on Lok Sabha elections, he said. "I just want to say may be we are late but we at least dared to bring this bill."

He also sought to debunk suggestions that this Bill could be nullified by the Supreme Court as it crosses it earmarked 50% as the maximum reservation possible.

"Everyone’s talking about the 50% cap on reservation. There is no mention of this cap in the Constitution. It has only come up in judgements. The Supreme Court’s 50% ceiling in fact, only applies to reservation for backward classes,” he said.

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States can define economically weaker sections: Prasad

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