Women’s Reservation Bill

Women’s Reservation Bill

The women’s Reservation Bill has a chequered history of its own. It has seen virulent opposition from a few members and valuable suggestions from many parliamentarians on the floor. While the debates are alive and hot even today to keep the Bill still alive, silently the Lok Sabha has seen an increasing representation of women in the successive Lok Sabhas since 1952 in the absence of any legal efforts. While the representation of women in the Lok Sabha in 1952 was 4.5%, in the 17th Lok Sabha it is 14.36% but falling short of about 20% to reach the target that is aimed at by the present Bill.

The Constitution (Eighty-first Amendment) Bill, 1996 (insertion of new Articles 330A and 332A) was first introduced in the Lok Sabha on September 12, 1996.

The panel proposed seven major suggestions and felt that the Bill’s wording of “not less than one third” with regard to reservation for women was vague and liable to be interpreted differently.

They suggested that it be substituted by “as nearly as may be,one-third” so as to leave no scope for ambiguity. The panel also suggested that there should be reservation of seats for women in the Rajya Sabha and the Legislative Councils and even stated that the benefit of reservation to the Other Backward Classes (OBCs) should be considered “at the appropriate time”.

The UF government could not pass the Bill and it lapsed after the dissolution of this Lok Sabha.

Between 1998 and 2004, the BJP-led NDA government headed by Atal Bihari Vajpayee tried to get the Bill passed multiple times.

The Bill was finally introduced on December 23, 1998 despite protests from the members of the SP-Ied Rashtriya Loktantrik Morcha, Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) and the Muslim League. There were differences among the NDA allies over it as well. The Bill, however, lapsed as the House was dissolved after the fall of the Vajpayee government in April 1999.

After Vajpayee formed the NDA government again, the Bill was introduced on December 23, 1999. The Vajpayee government tried to push the Bill three times afterwards – in 2000, 2002 and 2003, but could not succeed despite support from the Congress and the left, the main Opposition parties at the time.

The UPA government finally introduced the Bill on May 6, 2008 and as was the case up to this point – dramatic scenes followed.

The Bill sought to reserve, as nearly as maybe, one third seats of the Lok Sabha and Legislative Assembly for women and provide one-third the number of seats reserved for the SCs and STs in the Lok Sabha and state Assemblies for women of those categories.

The committee, which submitted its report to Parliament in December 2009, recommended that the Bill be passed in its present form without any delay.

After two days of spirited discussion, the Rajya Sabha, on March 9, 2010, passed the Bill by over a two-third majority.

The UPA government, however, did not show the political will to get the Bill passed in the Lok Sabha despite the BJP and the left supporting it In 2011, Speaker Meira Kumar convened an all-party meeting to break the deadlock, but in vain.

Finally in the new parliament building, the Women’s Reservation Bill (Nari Shakti Vandan Adhiniyam) was introduced on 19th September 2023 as 128th Amendment Bill.