The Women Reservation Bill, which seeks to provide a 33% quota for women in the Lok Sabha and State Legislative Assemblies, has been introduced in the Lok Sabha.
The Women Reservation Bill, which proposes to reserve 33% of seats for women in the Lok Sabha and State Legislative Assemblies, was presented in the ongoing special session of Parliament today. Terming September 19 as a ‘historic day,’ Prime Minister Narendra Modi, with unanimous support from the opposition, urged the passage of the bill – ‘Women Empowerment Tribute Act,’ which has been pending for nearly three decades.
In the Lok Sabha, Prime Minister Modi stated, “On this historic occasion in the new Parliament building, as the first parliamentary action, we are opening the doors for women’s empowerment with this important decision.”
PM Modi announced that his government is “bringing forth an important constitutional amendment bill” to further the cause of women’s leadership.
He said, “The Women Empowerment Tribute Act will strengthen our democracy. There have been several debates on women’s reservation in the past… and I appeal to the members of Parliament to support this bill.”
Law Minister Arjun Ram Meghwal, before presenting the bill to the lawmakers, stated, “We want more and more women to be involved in the country’s development process.”
Of the country’s 950 million registered voters, approximately half are women, yet their representation in Parliament is only 15%, and it’s about 10% in State Legislative Assemblies.
Meghwal noted that after the bill is passed, the number of women MPs in the Lok Sabha will increase from the current 82 to 181.
Congress leader Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury credited the Women’s Reservation Bill to his party. He said, “Previous Congress governments led by Rajiv Gandhi, P.V. Narasimha Rao, and Manmohan Singh had made continuous efforts to pass the bill, which reserves seats for women.”
Chowdhury also claimed that the Women’s Reservation Bill, which was passed in the Rajya Sabha during the Congress regime under Manmohan Singh’s leadership, is still pending.
However, Union Home Minister Amit Shah refuted this claim, stating that the bill had already lapsed.
Women’s Reservation Bill – Key Highlights:
The Constitution (One Hundred and Thirty-Eighth Amendment) Bill, 2023, attempts to introduce three new articles and a new section in the Constitution.
- New Section 239AA: Reserved Seats for Women in the Delhi Legislative Assembly. One-third of the seats reserved for women, including one-third of the seats reserved for Scheduled Castes (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (ST), shall be reserved for women. One-third of the total seats will be filled through direct election by Parliament.
- New Article 330A: Reservation for Women in the Lok Sabha – One-third of the seats reserved for women, including one-third of the seats reserved for SCs and STs, shall be reserved for women. One-third of the total seats will be filled through direct election by the electorate.
- New Article 332A: Reserved Seats for Women in State Legislative Assemblies – One-third of the seats reserved for women, including one-third of the seats reserved for SCs and STs, shall be reserved for women. One-third of the total seats will be filled through direct election by the electorate.
- New Article 334A: Reservation Effective After Publication of Relevant Census Figures – Reservation will come into effect after each census subsequent to the first census.
The bill proposing reservation for women in Parliament and State Legislative Assemblies was first presented by the United Front government led by H.D. Deve Gowda in 1996. It failed to gain approval in the Lok Sabha and was referred to a joint parliamentary committee in December 1996. However, with the dissolution of the Lok Sabha, the bill lapsed.
In 1998, the NDA government led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee reintroduced the bill in the Lok Sabha. It also failed to gain approval and was again lapsed. The bill was reintroduced in 1999, 2002, and 2003. Despite support from the Congress, BJP, and leftist parties, the bill failed to secure a two-thirds majority vote.
In 2008, the UPA government led by Manmohan Singh introduced the bill in the Rajya Sabha, and it was passed in 2010. However, the bill was never brought to the Lok Sabha for consideration, and it lapsed with the dissolution of the 15th Lok Sabha in 2014.