Devil In The Details
Opposition flags ‘problematic clauses’ in the Women Reservation Bill
In a historical move, The Constitution (One Hundred and Twenty-eighth Amendment) Bill 2023, better known as the ‘Women's Reservation Bill’, seeking to reserve 33% of seats in Lok Sabha and state Assemblies for women, was passed unanimously by Rajya Sabha, on Thursday, a day after it sailed through Lok Sabha.
However, since its passing, the Opposition leaders have raised their concerns over the implementation and structure of the Bill. The Citizen spoke to political leaders of different parties and this is what they had to say.
Tilottma Chowdhary, Councillor, Aam Aadmi Party, Delhi, who was earlier a Congress member said that they are protesting the way the Bill was introduced. “Wherever women get respect is a good thing for us. We ourselves feel empowered by helping and contributing to society, the same way we also want other women to come forward and be self-sufficient.
“This is a good thought, but I protest the way this Bill was introduced. This Bill is being used as a political and election stunt by the BJP and this is just a move to fool women, this is what I feel as a woman,” Chowdhary said.
She added that nothing was done for the past nine years by the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) despite being in power for so long. “The future of the Bill also seems bleak because if they had to really pass it they should have done it as it is. They have put these terms and conditions here because this may be implemented in 2029 but whether it would be that future is still dangling.
“We are objecting to this Bill, especially the way it was implemented. They passed it just a few months before the elections. You woke up and decided to pass the Bill, I am looking at it as an election agenda,” she added.
Meanwhile, Annie Raja, member of the Communist Party of India (CPI) who is also the General Secretary of National Federation of Indian Women said that they had filed a petition in the Supreme Court in 2021 regarding which the apex court had asked for a reply from the Centre. Raja was talking about the PIL regarding the re-introduction of the women’s reservation Bill in the Supreme Court.
During the hearing on September 5 , the Supreme Court Bench comprising Justices Sanjiv Khanna and S.V.N. Bhatti rebuked the Additional Solicitor General K.M. Nataraj, who was appearing for the Centre and said they were “shying away” from a reply to the PIL which was filed in 2021. The Centre’s counsel said the petitioner is seeking a mandamus to table the Bill.
The SC expressed its surprise at the reluctance of political parties to take a position on the issue. “You should have filed a reply….I was interested to know what political parties would say. None of them have come forward, except CPI.” The next hearing is on October 11.
“The main reason for this government to pass the Bill is due to the position the Supreme Court had in the matter. Because even in this Bill they have linked it with the census and delayed the implementation,” she said.
The Bill itself says that the census as well as the delimitation exercise will have to take place before the reservation can be implemented. Union Home Minister Amit Shah in his speech in Lok Sabha clarified that the reservation will not be implemented in the upcoming 2024 elections.
Experts believe that the Bill might not be implemented till 2029. The clause caused a major ruckus with Shiromani Akali Dal (SAD) MP Harsimrat Kaur Badal criticising the centre over the census and delimitation clause and said that women have again been betrayed in the male-dominated Parliament.
“Devil in the details came across...The census was to be held in 2021 and now 2023 is about to end and it hasn't been done yet and we don't know when it will happen. After the census, delimitation will take place and then this Reservation Bill will be implemented…
“Why did you bring this Bill when you're not implementing it?... This male-dominated parliament betrayed women,” Badal said in the Parliament.
Raja, meanwhile said that if they were genuinely concerned about women empowerment and participation in policy formulation “they should have taken necessary steps to see that the fruit of this act is enjoyed by the next general elections”.
“So many Bills have been passed in the Parliament and they are getting consent from the president and they are immediately implemented. A major example is abrogation of Article 370, but why not here? If they wanted, they could have done the implementation as soon as possible,” she added.
Raja also said that this was also a way for the Centre to avoid the Court as it was questioning them over the Bill. Amidst this, the opposition has raised a demand for a sub-quota for OBC women.
At present 84 of these 543 seats are reserved for Scheduled Castes, 47 seats are reserved for Scheduled Tribes, and 412 seats are unreserved. “Quarter of a century has passed and the government should have put in some reference or have discussions with other political parties on how we can make these reservations to be more inclusive,” Raja added.
Meanwhile, the Congress, while extending its support for the Bill, claimed that it is just an election 'jumla' introduced by the BJP.
"The reservation for women will come into effect only following the first decadal Census conducted after the Women’s Reservation Bill has become an Act. When will this Census take place?
“The Bill also says the reservation comes into effect only after the publication of the next Census and the subsequent delimitation exercise thereafter. Will the Census and delimitation be done before the 2024 elections?" party General Secretary Jairam Ramesh wrote on X (formerly Twitter).
Members of the Samajwadi Party (SP), Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD), and Prakash Ambedkar's Vanchit Bahujan Aghadi (VBA) opposed the Bill claiming that it discriminates against women belonging to Dalit, minority, Adivasi categories.
"The Women's Reservation Bill" which excludes women belonging to the OBC/EBC category will be passed after delimitation. Delimitation will happen after the census. Under pressure to conduct a caste census, the Modi government has delayed the decadal census. This Bill is just noise and no substance," former Bihar Chief Minister Rabri Devi wrote on X (formerly Twitter).
Bahujan Samaj Party (BSP) chief Mayawati in a press release stated that women from Scheduled Castes, Scheduled Tribes and Other Backward Classes should get reservation in the Women’s Reservation Bill being presented in Parliament. The former chief minister, however, clarified that her party would support the Bill in Parliament even if these demands are not met.
The Women's Reservation Bill sought to reserve one-third of all seats in Parliament and state assemblies for women was first introduced in the Parliament in 2008, although there have been several efforts to introduce women's reservation Bill in the Lok Sabha and State Legislative Assemblies since 1996.