Maintaining that the Constitution was bigger than any court judgement, NCP president Sharad Pawar on Monday asked the Centre to enact a law to remove the Supreme Court-mandated 50 per cent cap on reservations and allow states to exceed the existing quota limit.
Pawar also said the use of force by marshals during ruckus in the Rajya Sabha last week was an "attack" on parliamentarians and democracy, and asserted that the Modi government fielding seven Union ministers before the media to justify its stand on the bedlam shows it was on a "weak wicket".
Addressing a press conference in Mumbai, Pawar said the Constitution was bigger than any judgement and asked the Modi government to bring a constitutional amendment to relax the 50 per cent cap on reservations in jobs and education and allow states to exceed existing quota limit.
Articles 15(4) and 16(4) (dealing with provision for socially and educationally backward classes, and reservation) do not put any limit on the percentage of quota and there is no constitutional hurdle in increasing the same, the former Union minister said.
The central government has already exceeded the 50 per cent limit by providing a 10 per cent quota in jobs and education for economically weaker sections, Pawar said.
Pawar asked the Centre to undertake a caste-based census and claimed the central government misled people on the quota issue. “The constitutional amendment of restoring the right of the states to prepare a list of OBCs, taken away two years ago, is a mere eyewash,” he said.
“Unless the 50 per cent cap is relaxed, the Maratha quota cannot be restored. Similarly, the empirical data on OBCs should be shared with the states. Unless the data is available, it cannot be known how much representation needs to be given to smaller castes,” the NCP leader said.
Pawar said reservation in most of the states is above 60 per cent. “Someone will have to show courage to speak in front of Modi. Deception is the only motive for the constitutional amendment," he said.
On August 10, the Lok Sabha passed a bill allowing states to decide who their Other Backward Classes (OBCs) are. The 127th Constitution Amendment Act, 2021, restores the power of states to identify socially and educationally backward classes (SEBCs), usually called OBCs. In May, the Supreme Court struck down the 2018 Maharashtra law granting quota to Marathas in admissions and government jobs, terming it as “unconstitutional", and held there were no exceptional circumstances to breach the 50 per cent reservation cap set by the 1992 Mandal verdict.
At the press meet, Pawar also spoke about the ruckus that erupted in the Upper House of Parliament last week and the opposition and the government trading charges over the unprecedented unruly scenes.
The veteran politician (80) said in his 54 years of parliamentary life, he had never seen 40 marshals entering the House during a session.
Pawar said the use of force by marshals in Parliament was dangerous for democracy.
The fact that seven to eight ministers came together to justify the government action shows they were on a "weak wicket", the NCP leader said.
Pawar said the opposition was only asking the government to discuss some key issues.
"Never before in parliamentary democracy 40 marshals had entered the House and pushed the MPs. This was an attack on parliamentarians and we condemn it. The opposition members were demanding that the Centre make its stand on the Pegasus case clear, debate the farm laws and scrap them and discuss price rise.
"We also demanded that the insurance bill be sent to a joint select committee but the government got it passed in a hurry. Opposition members protested against this act of the government," he said.
Pawar further said a probe was needed into the allegations that "outsiders" entered the House when it was in session.
He also said any Congress leader from among Abhishek Manu Singhvi, P Chidambaram and Kapil Sibal should be part of a parliamentary committee on the Pegasus 'snooping' issue.
Before the Rajya Sabha was adjourned sine die last Wednesday, it witnessed ugly scenes of Opposition members jostling with marshals as they tore papers, entered the Well of the Upper House and attempted to go near the presiding officer's chair.
Referring to the din in the House, Pawar said, "We were told some bills are about constitutional amendment. The opposition said there is no mention about discussion on the Pegasus issue. Whatever happened, happened in front of me since my seat is in the front. Some members did go into the Well."
With the Taliban taking over Afghanistan, Pawar underlined the need to review India's foreign policy concerning all the neighbouring countries.
"We should be alert and will have to take precautions in the long run. There was a time when except Pakistan and China, our relations with other neighbours were good," the former defence minister said.
Taliban insurgents swept into Afghanistan's capital Kabul on Sunday after the government collapsed and President Ashraf Ghani left the country.
"It is time to review our foreign policy concerning other countries. The situation is not good. But it is a sensitive issue. We will cooperate with the government since this is about national security," the former defence minister said.