Polity Notes

Reservation for Women in Legislature

We have a provision of reservation for Schedule castes and Schedule Tribes in Lok Sabha and State Legislative Assemblies. 15% reservation for SC and 7.5% for ST exist in Lok Sabha (131 out of 543 seats) and in our state legislative assemblies according to population of these caste in the state. There is no provision for OBC (Other Backward Classes) and women in Lok Sabha and in state legislative assemblies. All political parties supported reservation for women in legislature but no concrete step was taken by any political party in this direction. We do have reservation for women in Panchayati Raj Institutions i.e., rural local bodies for e.g., Village Panchaya , Block Samiti, Jila Parishad etc. and in urban local bodies for e.g., Nagar Nigam, Nagar Palika, Cantonment Board, Nagar Vikas Parishad etc. At least 33% reservation is mandatory for women in these institutions.

The very first step for women reservation was initiated by introducing constitution (108th amendment bill), 2008. This bill was passed by Rajya Sabha on 9th March, 2010 but was never presented in Lok Sabha. Bhartiya Janta Party too always supported and promised to provide reservation for women in legislature. Finally the constitution (128th amendment) bill 2023 was introduced in Lok Sabha by Union Minister of state Law and Justice Shri. Arjun Ram Meghwal to provide 33% reservation for women in Lok Sabha, in all state legislative assemblies and in legislative assembly of Delhi.

The Nari Shakti Vandan Adhiniyam is a historical legislation which will further boost women empowerment and will enable even greater participation of women in our political process.

Highlights of 128th Constitutional Amendment Bill, 2023

  • 1/3 of the total number of seats of Lok Sabha shall be reserved for women (181 out of 543 seats)
  • This bill proposes a similar provision for all state legislative assemblies and for legislative assembly of Delhi.
  • However, this quota will not apply to Rajya Sabha or State legislative councils.
  • The reservation will be for a period of 15 yrs. from the date of commencement of the Act.
  • The provisions of this bill will be applicable after delimitation which would happen after the results of 1st Census after 2026 is published. So, reservation will be not be applicable for the upcoming 18th Lok Sabha election to be held in 2024. It seems that reservation for women in Lok Sabha shall be applicable from 2029 onwards.
  • The Bill does not specify how these 1/3rd seats will be identified. It only proposes the rotation of reserved seats.
  • Presently, Lok Sabha has 82 women members. The provision of this bill will raise this number to a minimum of 181.
  • This is a constitution amendment bill and need to be passed by both houses of parliament by their special majority and also to be retified by at least half
  • of the state legislative assemblies by their simple majority.
  • The bill aims to include more women in policy making and to enrich the quality of legislative debates and decision making.

Criticism of the Bill

The opposition parties accused the government of taking political mileage by introducing this bill with an eye on 2024 Lok Sabha election. BJP has been in power for last 9 yrs. and they are using this bill as a weapon to win 2024 Lok Sabha elections having no concern for women’s issues. Samajwadi party demanded reservation for women from minority communities too some political parties have also demanded reservation for other backward classes (OBC)

In Lok Sabha 454 members voted in its favor and two were opposed to it. The two Lok Sabha members who opposed the bill were from AIMIM party. Its chief Asaduddin Owaisi & Imtiyaz Jaleel voted against it, contending that it would exclusively benefit, “Savarna Women”. They demanded allocation for OBC and Muslim women who have even lower representation in Lok Sabha and Legislative assemblies

The Rajya Sabha passed this bill on Sept. 21 unanimously (by all 214 members present and voting)

As parliament has passed the bill now the bill will be sent to All State Legislative Assemblies for their retification by their simple majority. After getting retification by at least half of the state legislative assemblies, the bill will be sent to President for her assent and after getting the assent of president, the bill will become an Act. Then Union govt will notify the date of its implementation. It is expected that this bill will become The Constitution (106th Amendment) Act, 2023.

Note: - Rwanda, a small country in central Africa is in news with regards to women Reservation Bill. This country has provision of 33% reservation for women in parliament. However, at present 61% seats in lower House of Parliament are occupied by women. 13 out of 26 cabinet ministers are women and 4 out of 7 Supreme Court Judges are women.