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Women get one-third seats in legislative bodies, equivalent horizontal reservation in Scheduled Caste and Tribe seats

The proposed constitutional amendment provides for reservation of seats for women in the Lok Sabha and state legislative assemblies, but will not come into effect until delimitation of constituencies takes place, based on data from the next decennial census.

THE Union government on Tuesday introduced constitutional amendments providing for reservation of one-third seats for women in Lok Sabha, state legislatures and the Delhi legislative assembly.

The Constitution (128th) Amendment Bill, 2023 is likely to be placed before the Lok Sabha tomorrow. A five-day long ‘special session’ of the Parliament is currently ongoing.

A statement of objects and reasons attached to the Bill states that it is being introduced to “enable greater participation of women as public representatives in policy-making at State and national levels”.

One-third of all seats

According to the Bill, one-third, or as nearly as possible, of the total number of seats to be filled by direct election shall be reserved for women in Lok Sabha, state legislative assemblies and the legislative assembly of the National Capital Territory of Delhi.

The Bill proposes the addition of Article 330A (Reservation of women in the House of the People), Article 332A (Reservation of women in the Legislative Assembly of the states) and the addition of a clause in Article 239AA (Special provisions with respect to Delhi).

Articles 330A and 332A are proposed to be added in Part XVI of the Constitution which contains “special provisions relating to certain classes. Through the provisions of this part, reservation of seats in Lok Sabha and state assemblies has been granted to Scheduled Castes (SCs), Scheduled Tribes (STs) and Anglo-Indians.

The Bill specifies that within the seats reserved for SCs and STs, one-third, or as nearly as possible, of such seats will be reserved for women.

As per Article 327, the Parliament may from time to time make provisions with respect to all matters relating to elections to either House of the Parliament or House of the legislature of a state.

This includes the power to delimitate constituencies, prepare electoral rolls and “all other matters necessary for securing the due constitution of such House or Houses”.

With respect to Delhi, clause (b) of Article 239AA(2) specifies that the total number of seats in the Delhi legislative assembly and “all other matters relating to the functioning of the legislative assembly” shall be regulated by law made by the Parliament.

Only with respect to the Delhi legislative assembly, the proposed provision related to reservation of seats for women in the seats already reserved for SCs and STs holds that such reservation will be granted “in such manner as [the] Parliament may by law determine”.

Significantly, the Bill does not create provisions for reservation of seats for women in the other two Union Territories that have legislative assemblies: Jammu and Kashmir and Puducherry.

Objects and reasons

The statement of objects and reasons attached to the Bill states that after completing 75 years of independence, India has entered into an “Amritkal” with a goal of becoming “vikasit Bharat (Developed India) by 2047.

The role of women, constituting half of the population, is extremely important in [the] realisation of this goal,” the statement reads.

It claims that the government has taken various steps in bringing nari shakti (women empowerment) to the forefront and that it has improved women’s “ease of living” through various schemes.

It then asserts that “true empowerment” of women will require their greater participation in decision making processes “as they bring different perspectives and enrich the quality of legislative debates and decision-making”.

The statement admits that while women participate substantially in the panchayati raj institutions and municipal bodies, their representation in state legislatures and in the Parliament “is still limited”.

It also admits that providing for representation of women in the Parliament and state legislatures has been a long-pending demand.

It notes that a Bill granting reservation of seats was passed in the Rajya Sabha in 2010, but it could get the assent of Lok Sabha.

The statement is dated September 18 and bears the name of the Minister for Law And Justice Arjun Ram Meghwal.

A financial memorandum attached to the Bill clarifies that “if enacted”, the Bill is not likely to involve any expenditure from the Consolidated Fund of India.

Taking effect

The provisions added through the amendment will come into effect after an exercise of delimitation is undertaken for this purpose based on the relevant figures of the census conducted after the Bill becomes law.

Significantly, the proposed amendments will cease to have effect at the expiry of 15 years from the date of their passing.

The Bill also adds that the reservation of seats for women will continue till such date as the Parliament by law determines.

It is specified that rotation of seats reserved for women will happen only after each subsequent delimitation exercise, to be determined by the Parliament by law.

The Leaflet