Context- The Government of India has introduced (in the upcoming 5-day special session of Parliament) the 128th Constitutional Amendment Bill, 2023, which aims to introduce 33 percent reservation for women in the Lok Sabha and all state parliaments and extend the quota to seats reserved for SC/STs.
- The Lok Sabha Bill (introduced by the Union Minister of Law and Justice) is similar to the Bill passed by the Rajya Sabha in 2010 (108th Constitutional Amendment Bill 2008).
- According to the new bill, almost one-third (including seats for women belonging to SC and ST) of the directly elected seats in the Lower House (Lok Sabha) will be reserved for women.
- The bill makes a similar provision for the legislative assemblies of states and Union Territory Delhi.
- But the quota does not apply to Rajya Sabha or state legislative councils.
- Like the previous bill, the new bill also proposes to insert new articles – 330A and 332A in the Constitution to make changes in the Lok Sabha and Assemblies.
- As in the 2010 bill, the current bill also has a sunset clause, according to which the reservation is valid for 15 years from the effective date.
- However, the main difference from the previous version is that the bill subjects the implementation of women’s reservation to the border process.
- The consequence of these conditions is that reservation for women may not be effectively introduced in the Lok Sabha before the 2029 general elections.
- The 42nd Amendment froze delimitation until the results of the first post-2000 census was published.
- In 2001 (84th amendment), the validity period was extended by 25 years.
- This means that the delimitation would take place after the results of the first census after 2026 are published.
Constitutional Amendments Needed to Operationalise Delimitation
- Since delimitation is a prerequisite for implementation of reservation, Articles 82 and 170(3) should be amended for this purpose.
- Article 82 provides for revision of constituencies (number and boundaries) of both Lok Sabha and State Assemblies after each census.
- Article 170(3) deals with the composition of the Legislative Assemblies.
How are reserved seats identified?
- The draft does not specify how these seats (one third) are identified. It only offers a rotation of reserved seats.
- It is important to remember that this proposed constitutional amendment is enabling in nature and empowers the government to pass laws to implement it.
- In a previous attempt (2010), the government proposed that constituencies reserved for women be drawn by lottery to ensure that no seat is reserved more than once in three consecutive elections.
How are SC and ST reserved seats decided now?
- The Delimitation Act 2002 contains general principles for reservation of seats.
- The number of parliamentary and representative constituencies to be reserved is decided by the delimitation commission appointed under the law, based on the population.
- The constituencies where seats are reserved for SCs should be spread across the state and (as far as possible) located in those areas where their population is relatively high in the total population.
- Similarly, the constituencies where seats are reserved for STs are located (as far as possible) in areas where their population has the highest proportion of the total population.
Reservations for women in Panchayati Raj Institutes (PRIs) and urban local bodies:
- Article 243D of the Constitution (inserted by the 73rd Amendment Act of 1992) provides for reservation of seats for SCs, STs and women in Panchayats.
- According to Article 243D, at least one-third of the seats reserved for SC and ST must be reserved for women.
- According to government data, at least 18 states (Uttarakhand, Assam, Tamil Nadu, Bihar, Rajasthan, MP, etc.) had more than 50% women MPs.
- The highest proportion of women was in Uttarakhand (56.02%) and the lowest in UP (33.34%).
- In total, 45.61 percent of PRIs in the country were represented by women.
128th Constitutional Amendment Bill of 2023:
- After the Narishakti Vandan Adhiniyam is passed, women MPs in the Lok Sabha will increase to 181 (as per its current strength, 545)
- There are 82 female MPs in the current parliament.
- As it is a constitutional amendment law, it must be approved by both parliaments with a “special majority”.
- Most of the members of each house plus a two-thirds majority of the parliament is present and votes and at least half of the parliaments must ratify it.
- Considering the increasing contribution of women in all fields, the draft aims to involve them more in decision-making.
- Women can bring different perspectives to the decision-making process and enrich the quality of legislative debate and decision-making.
Source: Indian Express
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