The Women’s Reservation Bill is on the verge of becoming law after nearly three decades of stalling and discord. However, a 33 per cent quota for women in parliament and state legislatures, as promised by the proposed law, may come into force only by 2029, NDTV has learnt.
The quota can be implemented only after the first delimitation or redrawing of constituencies after the bill becomes law, according to details exclusively accessed by NDTV. Constituencies will be redrawn only after the next Census, which is likely in 2027.
Article 82 of the Constitution, as amended in 2002, says the delimitation process can be carried out based on the first Census taken after 2026. Originally, the first Census after 2026 was to be carried out in 2031, which would be followed by delimitation.
The Census was meant to be held last in 2021, but was delayed because of Covid, so the next count might be in 2027.
To enable the redrawing of constituencies sooner, Article 82 has to be amended. However, southern states are against the immediate delimitation process.
The women’s quota bill will be in force for 15 years after becoming an Act, but its term can be extended.
Importantly, the seats reserved for women will be rotated after each delimitation exercise.
The six-page bill says a third of seats in Lok Sabha and assemblies will be reserved for women and filled by direct election. Also, the quota will not apply to Rajya Sabha or state Legislative Councils. Within the quota, a third of the seats will be for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.
The bill does not include reservation for OBCs (Other Backward Classes), as such a provision does not exist for the legislature. This was the demand over which parties like the Samajwadi Party and Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) opposed the women’s quota bill for decades.
The bill is similar to the Women’s Reservation Bill drafted in 2010 when the Manmohan Singh-led Congress government was in power. Only, two amendments to bring in quota for the Anglo-Indian community have been dropped in the new version.
The provisions of the women’s quota bill will come into effect after delimitation or redrawing of constituencies after “the relevant figures for the first Census taken after the commencement of the Constitution (One Hundred and Twenty-eighth Amendment) Act 2023 have been published” and will cease to have effect 15 years after its enactment, says the bill.
Effectively, the new bill is an enabling provision, a step forward, but a separate bill and notification will be needed for the delimitation Act.
“Subject to the provisions of articles 239A, 330A, and 332A, seats reserved for women in the House of the People, the Legislative Assembly of a State, and the Legislative Assembly of the National Capital Territory of Del shall continue till such date as the Parliament may by law determine,” the bill says.
The statement of objects and reasons says the bill seeks greater participation of women as public representatives in policy-making at the state and national levels.
Currently, women only make up 14 per cent of parliament and legislatures in India, which is far lower than the world average.