Women’s Reservation Bill to come into effect after delimitation exercise
Meeting a long-pending demand, the Government of India on Tuesday introduced a bill to provide 33 percent reservation to women in Lok Sabha and State Assemblies. However, its implementation may still take some time (after passing in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha and State Assemblies) and is unlikely to be in force for the next Lok Sabha elections in 2024 as the reservation will come into effect only after a delimitation exercise is completed. The bill has proposed that the reservation will continue for a period of 15 years and there will be a quota for SC/ STs within the reserved seats for women.
Speaking in Lok Sabha ahead of its introduction, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said the government wants more and more women to join the development process of the country. “For that work of giving power to women and for many such noble works, God has chosen me. Once again our Government has taken a step in this direction,” he asserted. The Constitution (One Hundred and Twenty-Eighth Amendment) Bill, 2023, was listed for introduction in the Lower House through a supplementary list of business.
The reservation of “as nearly as may be, one-third of the total number of seats to be filled by direct election” will come into effect after a delimitation exercise is undertaken and will continue for 15 years. Seats reserved for women will be rotated after each subsequent delimitation exercise, according to the bill. According to provisions of Article 368, the Constitution amendment bill will require ratification by at least 50 percent of the states. Their consent is needed as it affects their rights.
Earlier Women Reservation Bill was passed during the Congress regime in March 2010 in Rajya Sabha and did not come to Lok Sabha for debates due to opposition from parties like Samajwadi Party and Janata Dal (United). By bringing the bill, which requires an amendment to the Constitution, the Modi government has revived the concept of women reservation in Lok Sabha and state assemblies pending for 27 years for want of consensus among parties. Making it the first bill to be introduced in the new Parliament building, the draft law will be named “Narishakti Vandan Adhiniyam“.
The government said it will enable greater participation of women in policy-making at the state and national levels and help achieve the goal of making India a developed country by 2047. While several parties had supported the concept, the debate in Parliament may see opposition questioning the pre-requisite of holding census and delimitation before the proposed law comes into force.
History of women’s reservation
The then Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi first introduced Constitution Amendment Bills for one-third reservation in panchayats and nagarpalikas in May 1989. It was passed by Lok Sabha but failed in Rajya Sabha in September 1989. Later, Prime Minister P V Narasimha Rao reintroduced Constitution Amendment Bills for one-third reservation for women in panchayats and nagarpalikas in April 1993. Both bills became law.
There have been several efforts to introduce women’s reservation bill in Lok Sabha and State Legislative Assemblies since 1996. The last such attempt was made in 2010 when Rajya Sabha passed a bill for women’s reservation, but the same could not be passed in Lok Sabha. Data shows that women MPs account for nearly 15 percent of Lok Sabha’s strength while their representation is below 10 percent in many State Assemblies.
Law Minister Arjun Ram Meghwal will move the Bill to the Lok Sabha for discussion and seek its passage.
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