Women’s Reservation Bill tabled; debate erupts over implementation timeline

The Constitution (One Hundred and Twenty-Eight Amendment) Bill, 2023 proposes to reserve “as nearly as may be” one-third of the seats kept already reserved for people from the scheduled caste and scheduled (SC/ST) tribe communities.

The Bill, if passed, would come into effect post “an exercise of delimitation is undertaken for this purpose after the relevant figures for the first census taken after commencement” of the Act.

Further the Act will be effective for a period of 15 years post its commencement.

In his address to the Lok Sabha in the new parliament building, prime minister Narendra Modi said, “‘Narishakti Vandan Adhiniyam’ will further strengthen our democracy.”

Stressing on the government’s commitment to get the bill pass and enact an Act, Modi said: “I assure all the mothers, sisters and daughters of the nation that we are committed to making this bill into law””

Taking forward the resolution of women-led development, our government is today presenting a major Constitutional Amendment Bill. The purpose of this Bill is to expand the participation of women in Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabhas”

Rotation of seats reserved for women in Lok Sabha, legislative assemblies and the assembly of the National Capital Territory of Delhi would take effect after each subsequent exercise of delimitation, to be determined by the parliament, according to the bill.

The statement of objects and reasons of the bill noted that “true empowerment” of women will require greater in the decision-making process.

Noting that there has been a long pending demand for higher representation of women at state and national level, the statement further acknowledged that there have been several efforts to introduce women’s reservation earlier.

“The last such attempt was made in 2010, when the Rajya Sabha had passed a bill for women’s reservation, but the same could not be passed in the Lok Sabha,” it said.

Seeking consensus for the bill, the prime minister said, “I request as well as urge all the colleagues in this House as a pious auspicious beginning is being made, if this Bill becomes Law with consensus then its power will magnify manifold. Therefore, I request both the Houses to pass the bill with full consensus.”

Union law minister Arjun Ram Meghwal said due to the Bill, the number of women representatives in Lok Sabha would reach 181 from the current 82.

Amid claims and counter-claims over who should get the credit for the bill aimed at empower women, the minister said: “During the tenure of Manmohan Singh, the bill was introduced in Rajya Sabha in 2008, instead of Lok Sabha. Congress has not had the intent to empower women. The bill later got lapsed after Congress went out of power in 2014.”

Although the bill is likely to witness consensus across political parties, opposition has started criticizing he government over the likely delay in implementation of the bill. Government has proposed to implement the bill only after a census and eventual delimitation.

Taking to social media platform X (formerly Twitter), Jairam Ramesh, general secretary and in-charge for communications, Indian National Congress, described the move as a betrayal of the hopes of Indian women.

“In a season of election jumlas, this one is the biggest of them all! A huge betrayal of the hopes of crores of Indian women and girls. As we had pointed out earlier, Modi government has not yet conducted the 2021 Decadal Census making India the only country in G20 that has failed to carry out the Census. Now it says that the reservation for women will come into effect only following the first decadal Census conducted AFTER the Women’s Reservation Bill has become an Act. When will this Census take place? The Bill also says the reservation come into effect only after the publication of the next Census and the subsequent delimitation exercise thereafter. Will the Census and delimitation be done before the 2024 elections?” he tweeted.

The last census was due in 2021, however, it has not taken place so far.

Aam Aadmi Party leader and a minister in the Delhi government, Atishi alleged the bill introduced in the parliament is aimed at befooling women.

“This is not BJP’s women’s reservation bill, it’s ‘Mahila Bewakoof Banao’ Bill. If we go through the provisions of the bill, then we find, this bill will not be implemented till census and delimitation is not done after the bill is passed. Leave along 2024, with this provision in place, women’s reservation will not be implemented even by the 2029 elections,” she said.

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Updated: 19 Sep 2023, 07:03 PM IST

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