New Delhi, Sep 18, 2023:
New Delhi, Sep 18: The Union Cabinet has given its approval for a bill to ensure reservation of 33 per cent seats for women in Lok Sabha and state legislative assemblies, reports claimed late evening on Monday. The government, however, has not made any official announcement as it skipped the customary press briefing after the cabinet meeting.
The bill is likely to be tabled in parliament during the five-day special session which began on Monday. The proposed bill, which has been pending for nearly 27 years, seeks to reserve one-third of all seats for women in the Lok Sabha and state legislative assemblies.
“Only the Modi government had the moral courage to fulfil the demand for women's reservation, which was approved by the cabinet. Congratulations @narendramodi ji and congratulations to the Modi government,” Union Minister Pralhad Singh Patel tweeted.
Besides calling for reservation of 33 per cent seats for women in Lok Sabha and state legislative assemblies, the bill also mandates that one third of the total seats reserved for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes should be allocated for women from those groups.
As per the bill, the reservation of seats for women will cease to exist 15 years after the commencement of the Amendment Act.
HISTORY OF WOMEN'S RESERVATION BILL
The bill was first introduced in Lok Sabha as the 81st Amendment Bill in September 1996 by then Prime Minister Deve Gowda-led United Front government. The bill failed to get the approval of the House and was referred to a joint parliamentary committee which submitted its report to Lok Sabha in December 1996. However, the bill lapsed with the dissolution of the Lok Sabha.
In 1998, then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government reintroduced the bill in the 12th Lok Sabha. After then Law Minister M Thambidurai introduced it, a Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) MP went to the well of the House, grabbed the bill, and tore it to bits. The bill failed to get support and lapsed again.
It was reintroduced in 1999, 2002, and 2003. Even though there was support for it within the Congress, the BJP, and the Left parties, the bill failed to receive majority votes.
In 2008, then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) government tabled the bill in the Rajya Sabha. It was passed with 186-1 votes on March 9, 2010. However, the bill was never taken up for consideration in the Lok Sabha and lapsed with the dissolution of the 15th Lok Sabha.
At the time, the RJD, the Janata Dal (United), and the Samajwadi Party (SP) were its most vocal opponents. They demanded a 33 per cent reservation for backward groups within the 33 per cent quota for women.
The last concrete development on the issue was in 2010 when Rajya Sabha passed the bill amid a ruckus with marshals escorting out some MPs who opposed the move. However, the bill lapsed as it could not be passed by Lok Sabha.
On Monday, the first day of Parliament's special session, Prime Minister Narendra Modi held a cabinet meeting where the bill was cleared, according to sources.
Several political parties have been demanding that the bill be cleared, including the Congress, Bharat Rashtra Samithi and Biju Janata Dal. The government will need two-thirds support in each House of Parliament for the bill to be taken up for consideration and passing.
ARGUMENTS FOR THE BILL
One of the key arguments in favour of the bill is that affirmative action is needed to better the condition of women in Indian society. As per stats revealed by the central government, women make up 14.94 per cent of the seats in Lok Sabha while the number falls to 14.05 per cent in Rajya Sabha. The percentage is even lower and often falls to single digits in the state assemblies.
Another key argument is that women's representation is needed in the decision-making process to address issues such as the high percentage of crimes against women, low participation of women in the workforce, low nutrition levels, and a skewed sex ratio.
ARGUMENTS AGAINST THE BILL
One of the key arguments against the bill is that women are not a homogeneous community, such as a caste group. Another argument states that reserving seats for women would violate the Constitution's guarantee of equality. Those who make this argument state that if a reservation is put into place, women would not compete on merit.
Many also argue that it is not possible to reserve seats in Rajya Sabha due to the existing system of elections to the upper house. The Rajya Sabha MPs are elected through a single transferable vote, which means that the votes are first allocated to the most preferred candidate, and then to the next preferred candidate, and so on.
This system cannot accommodate the principle of reserving a certain number of seats for a particular group — even for SCs and STs.