Women Reservation Bill Unanimously Passed in Rajya Sabha
On the historic evening of September 21, 2023, New Delhi witnessed a momentous event as the 128th Constitution Amendment Bill of 2023 achieved unanimous approval in the Rajya Sabha. This transformative legislation, officially titled ‘The Constitution (One Hundred and Twenty-Eighth Amendment) Bill, 2023,’ represents a pivotal moment in India’s political landscape. It introduces a groundbreaking proposal to reserve 33% of seats in both the Lok Sabha and state Assemblies for women, thereby taking a significant step towards gender equality in the country’s legislative bodies.
A day before this historic milestone, the crucial amendment had secured a resounding two-thirds majority in the Lok Sabha, signalling widespread support among the members of the lower house. With the Rajya Sabha’s unanimous endorsement, the path was cleared for this groundbreaking bill to become law, marking a momentous achievement and a crucial chapter in India’s history.
The passage of the Women’s Reservation Bill marked a historic occasion in the newly inaugurated Parliament building. It garnered unanimous approval in the Upper House with a resounding 214 votes in favour, with no dissenting voices or abstentions. The oversight of this significant vote was undertaken by Chairman Jagdeep Dhankhar. This achievement marked the culmination of a special session, underscoring the paramount importance of gender equality in Indian politics.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi
Prime Minister Narendra Modi hailed the passage of the women’s quota bill as a defining moment in India’s democratic journey. He expressed his heartfelt appreciation to all the Rajya Sabha members who stood in support of the Nari Shakti Vandan Adhiniyam. In a post on WhatsApp Channels, PM Modi extended his congratulations to the 1.4 billion citizens of India and thanked the Rajya Sabha MPs for their unanimous backing. He emphasised that this legislation signifies stronger representation and empowerment for women in India, paying homage to the resilience and contributions of countless women who have enriched the nation. PM Modi noted that this historic step is a testament to the commitment to ensuring the effective representation of women’s voices in the nation’s decision-making processes.
What is the Women Reservation Bill?
The ‘Nari Shakti Vandan Adhiniyam,’ or Women’s Reservation Bill, aims to reserve 33% of seats for women in the Lok Sabha, state legislative assemblies, and the Delhi assembly. It’s important to note that this quota does not apply to the Rajya Sabha or state Legislative Councils. The implementation of seat reservations will occur following the delimitation process, which will be based on the first census figures.
In the Lok Sabha, the bill received overwhelming support, with 454 members in favour and only two opposing it. The Rajya Sabha, however, provided unanimous approval, marking a historic moment. This bill, which had been pending for over 25 years, was finally passed during a special session of Parliament.
Union Home Minister Amit Shah
Union Home Minister Amit Shah lauded the passage of the bill as a historic milestone on the path to equitable governance. He celebrated it as a powerful message of gender equality and inclusive governance worldwide, thanks to Prime Minister Modi’s unwavering commitment. Amit Shah expressed heartfelt gratitude to Modi Ji and extended congratulations to every citizen on this significant achievement.
Union Finance and Corporate Affairs Minister Nirmala Sitharaman
Minister Nirmala Sitharaman emphasised the importance of building consensus for the economic and social empowerment of women. In response to Opposition criticism about the timing of the bill’s introduction after nine years, she pointed out the government’s various schemes for the socio-economic empowerment of women since 2014. Sitharaman highlighted key initiatives, including the distribution of over 9 crore gas connections under Ujjwala, the construction of 11.72 crore toilets, and the Beti Padhao, Beti Bachao Yojana, aimed at achieving gender balance. The extension of paid maternity leave from 12 to 26 weeks and the provision of 9.82 crore paid tap connections were among the notable achievements.
Sitharaman also mentioned the government’s efforts to provide opportunities for women in institutions like the National Defence Academy and Sainik Schools, as well as policy changes like the revocation of Article 370 and criminalising instant triple talaq. She emphasised that these measures reflect the government’s commitment to advancing the status and opportunities of women in India.
Regarding reservations in the Rajya Sabha, Sitharaman explained that it wasn’t feasible since its members are not directly elected. She also addressed questions about the special session, explaining that it was intended to inaugurate the new parliamentary building with the passage of this important legislation. She expressed gratitude to members from various political parties for their support in this endeavour.
Regarding the delay in delimitation until 2026, she cited the 42nd Constitutional Amendment Act as the reason for freezing the date until 2000, and it was later frozen again until 2026. Sitharaman pointed out that Article 82 mandates seat readjustments after each Census, not only in the Lok Sabha but also within states.
In response to criticism from Congress member K C Venugopal about senior BJP leaders voting against the Constitutional Amendment of 1989 for women’s quota in local bodies, Sitharaman noted that opposition to the amendment was not limited to one party. She highlighted that several regional leaders, including M Karunanidhi, Jyoti Basu, and N T Rama Rao, had also opposed it, as they believed it could encroach upon states’ powers.