A Constitution Amendment Bill providing for quota for SCs and STs in government job promotions was today passed by Rajya Sabha with an overwhelming vote of 206 in the 245-member House.
Ten votes were polled against the proposed legislation, which was strongly opposed by UPA ally Samajwadi Party but pushed by another supporter BSP creating a difficult situation for the government.
Those who voted against the contentious Constitution (117th Amendment) Bill, 2012, were nine members of Samajwadi Party and an independent Md Adeeb.
Being a Constitution Amendment Bill, there was a requirement of the two-third majority, which was easily surpassed as 206 voted in favour in the House, where 216 members were present.
All four members of Shiv Sena, which was also opposed to the Bill, were not present in the House.
The Bill, which provides for reservation proportionate to population of SCs and STs, was approved by the Union Cabinet on September 5 against the backdrop of Supreme Court quashing such a decision of the Uttar Pradesh government earlier this year.
Replying to the two-day debate, Minister of State for Personnel V Narayanasamy said the Bill seeks to correct the "inadequacy" in representation of SCs/STs in higher positions in government jobs.
To garner maximum support, government incorporated some crucial elements like 22% cap on promotions for which consideration of Annual Confidential Report (ACR) will be crucial.
Reeling out figures, Narayanasamy pointed out that discrimination against the SCs/STs/OBCs continue and they are inadequately represented in the top bureaucracy.
He said quota in promotion existed since 1995 but the decision in Indira Sawhney case put spokes in it.
Arguing that all parties including Samajwadi Party are convinced about social justice, Narayanasamy asked the UPA ally as to why they are opposing reservation in promotion when they accept reservation at the entry level.
Noting that the Supreme Court has asked for quantifiable data on it, he said, "From our side we are convinced that they are backward per se. Government is committed to provide reservation in promotion. This is commitment of our government and the party. We are for SCs/STs and OBCs."
Leader of the Opposition Arun Jaitley sought an assurance from the government that the amendments will not affect people who have already been promoted since 1995 to which Narayanasamy said the government will write in this regard to state governments so that people who have been promoted are "not adversely affected".
The Bill provides for amendments to Article 16(4) of the Constitution that will allow states to reserve seats in promotion for SCs and STs without collecting data to show the backwardness of class and inadequacy of that class in public appointments.
Samajwadi Party, which is strongly opposed to a Bill asked the government to rethink on it, warning that it can have very serious fall-out and may be challenged in court.
Contending that his party is not against quota, Ram Gopal Yadav (SP) said as far as reservation in jobs at the entry level is concerned, it is justifiable but after that people should be treated equally.
His party colleague Naresh Agrawal demanded that the Bill should be referred to Parliamentary Standing Committee to avoid a possible widespread uproar in the country.
Earlier, when the Bill was taken up for consideration last Thursday, high drama was witnessed in the House with SP members creating uproar forcing the Chair to ask two of them to leave.