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Women’s Quota Bill Implementation: New Details Emerge on Timeline; Know 4 Important Provisions of the Bill, Each And Every Thing Explained

Women’s Quota Bill Implementation : A 33% Quota for Women – Promised, But Not Immediate. The long-pending Women’s Reservation Bill may finally become law, but its full implementation could be delayed until 2029.

New Delhi, 19 September (City Times News) Women’s Quota Bill Implementation : After nearly three decades of debates and delays, the Women’s Reservation Bill is close to becoming law. However, despite the promised 33% quota for women in parliament and state legislatures, this historic change might only take effect by 2029, according to exclusive details accessed by NDTV. The bill stipulates that the quota can only be implemented after the first delimitation or redrawing of constituencies following its enactment. This redrawing will occur after the next Census, expected in 2027.

Constitutional Framework and Delimitation

Article 82 of the Constitution, amended in 2002, specifies that the delimitation process can take place based on the first Census conducted after 2026. Originally, the first Census post-2026 was scheduled for 2031, followed by delimitation. However, the 2021 Census was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, leading to the next Census in 2027.

To expedite constituency redrawing, an amendment to Article 82 is required. Yet, southern states oppose immediate delimitation.

Term and Rotation of Reserved Seats

The Women’s Quota Bill Implementation is set to be in force for 15 years after becoming law, but its term can be extended. Notably, seats reserved for women will be rotated after each delimitation exercise.

4 Key Provisions of the Bill

The six-page bill outlines crucial provisions:

  1. One-third of seats in the Lok Sabha and state assemblies will be reserved for women and filled by direct election.
  2. The quota does not apply to the Rajya Sabha or state Legislative Councils.
  3. Within the quota, one-third of the seats will be reserved for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.
  4. The bill does not include reservation for Other Backward Classes (OBCs), as such a provision does not exist for the legislature. This omission was a major point of contention for parties like the Samajwadi Party and Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) for many years.

Similarities to the 2010 Draft

This bill shares similarities with the Women’s Reservation Bill drafted in 2010 when the Congress-led government, under Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, was in power. However, two amendments to include quota provisions for the Anglo-Indian community have been removed in the new version.(Women’s Quota Bill Implementation)

Constitutional Framework and Delimitation: The Key Hold-up

At the heart of the matter lies Article 82 of the Constitution, which was amended in 2002 to allow delimitation, or the redrawing of constituencies, based on the first Census conducted after 2026. Originally slated for 2031, the 2021 Census was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, pushing the next Census to 2027. To expedite the redrawing of constituencies, an amendment to Article 82 is necessary. However, southern states are opposed to immediate delimitation. (Women’s Quota Bill Implementation)

Understanding the Bill’s Provisions: What’s In and What’s Out

The Women’s Reservation Bill mandates that one-third of seats in the Lok Sabha and state assemblies be reserved for women, filled through direct elections. However, it’s important to note that this quota does not apply to the Rajya Sabha or state Legislative Councils. Within this quota, an additional one-third of seats are reserved for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. Notably, the bill does not include a reservation for Other Backward Classes (OBCs), a point of contention for parties like the Samajwadi Party and Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) for many years.(Women’s Quota Bill Implementation)

Implementation Timeline and Effect

The bill’s provisions will come into effect following delimitation or constituency redrawing after the publication of the relevant figures for the first Census conducted after the commencement of the Constitution (One Hundred and Twenty-eighth Amendment) Act 2023. These provisions will cease to have effect 15 years after their enactment, as stated in the bill.

In essence, the new bill serves as an enabling provision, representing a step forward. However, a separate bill and notification will be required for the delimitation Act.

The bill aims to encourage greater participation of women as public representatives in policy-making at the state and national levels. Currently, women constitute only 14% of parliament and legislatures in India, significantly lower than the global average. (Women’s Quota Bill Implementation)

A Significant Step Forward: But More Steps to Follow

While this marks a significant leap towards gender parity in politics, a separate bill and notification are required to initiate the delimitation Act. This legislation aims to enhance women’s participation in policymaking, addressing the current disparity where women constitute a mere 14% of India’s parliament and legislatures, a figure significantly below the global average.(Women’s Quota Bill Implementation)

As India moves closer to realizing the Women’s Reservation Bill, the nation anticipates transformative changes in its political landscape, paving the way for greater representation and gender equity in the corridors of power.

Supreme Court Raises Concerns About Women’s Reservation Bill Implementation

On the inaugural day (September 18) of the special session of the Parliament, the union cabinet reportedly approved the tabling of the women’s reservation bill. But lesser known is that one month ago, the Supreme Court had questioned the Central Government for not making its stand clear on the issue of women reservation.(Women’s Quota Bill Implementation)

Supreme Court’s Query

The Court asked the Central Government why it had not filed its response to a PIL filed in 2021 seeking reservation for women in legislature.

“You have not filed a reply. Why are you shying away? Why have you not filed a reply? Say you want to implement it, or not. It’s too important an issue to be thrown on the backburner. It’s too important. It concerns all of us,” a bench comprising Justices Sanjiv Khanna and SVN Bhatti had asked the Centre’s law officer in the hearing held on August 11.(Women’s Quota Bill Implementation)

PIL by National Federation of Indian Women

This plea was filed in 2021 by the National Federation of Indian Women (NFIW) seeking the reintroduction of the women’s reservation bill in the Lok Sabha. The bill, also known as the Constitution (One Hundred and Eighth Amendment) Bill, 2008, aimed to introduce 33 percent reservation for women in the Lok Sabha and state assemblies.

Although it was passed by the Rajya Sabha in 2010, it lapsed after the dissolution of the 15th Lok Sabha. The women’s reservation has not been placed before the Lower House of the Parliament yet, despite the passage of over a decade.

During the August hearing, the court expressed surprise at the reluctance of political parties to take a stand on the issue and adjourned the case until October. Reiterating that the Centre has to file a reply, Justice Sanjiv Khanna even indicated that on the next day, the court would issue an order while staying within the bounds of permissible judicial intervention.

Supreme Court’s Earlier Emphasis on Women’s Reservation

But this was not the first time that the court underscored the significance of the issue. The ‘constitutional importance’ of the women reservation issue was stressed by the court in November of last year while issuing notice and seeking the central government’s response.

Supreme Court’s Involvement in Women Reservation Issue

The Supreme Court dealt with the issue of women reservation in local bodies in a case concerning the State of Nagaland. In February this year, the Court had directed the State Election Commission of Nagaland to notify local body elections in Nagaland with the women quota. However, the State Government took the stand that women reservation is not applicable to Nagaland in view of the special provisions under Article 371A of the Constitution.(Women’s Quota Bill Implementation)

In a hearing held on July 25, a bench comprising Justices SK Kaul and Sudhanshu Dhulia did not appreciate the stand of the State Government. The bench also criticised the Union Government for not taking a clear stand on the issue.

Pointing out that the Nagaland Government and the Union Government are in the same page politically, Justice Kaul even went to the extent of orally telling the Centre’s law officer:

“You take extreme stands against other State Governments who are not amenable to you, but your own State Government is violating Constitutional provision and you do not want to say something.”(Women’s Quota Bill Implementation)

The bench stated in the order that “the Central Government cannot wash its hands off this issue where a constitutional scheme is provided and its task is simplified by the fact that political dispensation in the State is in line with political dispensation at the Centre”. The bench also stressed the importance of women reservation during the hearing.

The Unresolved Issue of Women Reservation

The Constitution (One Hundred and Eighth Amendment) Bill, 2008, which lapsed after the dissolution of the 15th Lok Sabha (2009-14), had a clear mission: to introduce a 33 percent reservation for women in both the Lower House of Parliament and state legislative assemblies.(Women’s Quota Bill Implementation)

To achieve this goal, the bill proposed amendments to three constitutional provisions – Article 239AA (Special provisions with respect to Delhi), Article 331 (Representation of the Anglo-Indian community in the House of the People), and Article 333 (Representation of the Anglo-Indian community in the Legislative Assemblies of the States). Additionally, it introduced three new articles, namely Articles 330A, 332A, and 334A.

The first two newly proposed articles sought to introduce reservation for women in Lok Sabha and the state legislative assemblies, while the last article contained a sunset clause for this affirmative policy to be phased out after a period of 15 years.

Notably, the bill also featured provisions for horizontal reservation, cutting across various quota categories. Specifically, one-third of the seats allocated for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in the Lok Sabha and legislative assemblies were designated for women from these communities. This measure sought to enhance women’s representation, even among historically disadvantaged groups, in the legislative process.(Women’s Quota Bill Implementation)

Women’s Reservation in Local Bodies

This move to reserve seats for women is not strange to the framework of the Indian Constitution and is a crucial element in local self-governance in India. Under the 73rd Constitutional Amendment Act of 1992, a pivotal step was taken to establish a 33.3 percent reservation for women in Panchayati Raj Institutions (PRI) throughout India, although the share of reserved seats has been enhanced by many state governments.

This amendment aimed to empower women by ensuring their substantial representation in grassroots governance, with the gram sabha serving as the cornerstone of the Panchayat Raj System, responsible for executing functions and powers delegated to it by state legislatures. Similarly, the 74th Constitutional Amendment Act of 1992 introduced 33% reservation for women in Municipalities.(Women’s Quota Bill Implementation)

What the PIL Petition States

In its petition, the NFIW has pointed out that even though the first women’s reservation bill was introduced more than 25 years ago, the policy of a 33 percent quota for women is still far from being implemented. The petitioner pointed out that although the proposed amendment once passed by the Rajya Sabha in 2010, it lapsed after the dissolution of the Lok Sabha.

“The non-introduction of the bill is arbitrary, illegal, and is leading to discrimination. The bill was passed by the Rajya Sabha in 2010 and has been crystallized so as to its aims and objectives to a large extent. In view thereof, it is submitted that non-introduction of such an important and beneficial Bill, on which there is a virtual consensus of all major political parties, is arbitrary.”(Women’s Quota Bill Implementation)

Although women constitute almost half of the population of India, their representation in the legislature remains dismal, making it necessary to have ‘vigorous’ affirmative action policies in place, the petitioner has said. Citing the example of reservation for women in panchayats, the petition has stated:(Women’s Quota Bill Implementation)

“The empowerment of women through the bill, will lead to the overall development of the country, particularly the women, and will also aid in dealing with the socio-economic as well as political inequality that are both intertwined…Given the systematic de-recognition of women’s work in the socio-economic realm, their deliberate exclusion from political participation is unacceptable and a violation of their democratic and constitutional rights.”(Women’s Quota Bill Implementation)

The bill and its objectives, the petitioner has stated, enjoys support from all political parties and the manifestoes of these parties include the promise of passing the Women’s Reservation Bill. The government cannot be allowed to keep a bill, that has been passed by the Rajya Sabha and enjoys the support of a majority of mainstream political parties, hanging indefinitely on the pretext of further consideration and the need for consensus between political parties, the petitioner has stated.(Women’s Quota Bill Implementation)

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