The Rajya Sabha on Thursday unanimously passed the Constitution (128th Amendment) Bill, 2023 providing reservation of one-third seats for women in Lok Sabha and state assemblies.
The Lok Sabha had on Wednesday passed the landmark bill after extensive discussion during the ongoing special session of the Parliament.
Rajya Sabha members cutting across party lines supported the bill which is also called Nari Shakti Vandan Adhiniyam. As many as 72 members in the Upper House participated in the marathon discussion on the key bill.
The discussion followed by voting on the bill stretched past 11:30 PM. 214 members voted in favour while there was no vote against it.
The amendments moved by some of the opposition members were negated by the House.
Replying to the debate, Minister of Law and Justice (Independent Charge) Arjun Ram Meghwal said no one should have any doubt about implementation of the women’s reservation bill. He noted that Constitutional provision requires Census and delimitation process to be completed before the bill is implemented.
As the Minister was replying to the bill, Prime Minister Narendra Modi walked into the Rajya Sabha amid chants of ‘Modi, Modi’ by his party members.
While extending their ‘whole-hearted and unconditional’ support to the bill, members from opposition parties pitched for quota within quota for other backward classes (OBCs). They also urged the government to implement the bill immediately.
Clause 5 of the Constitution (128th Amendment) Bill, 2023 states that reservation of seats for women in Lok Sabha and state assemblies will be implemented after delimitation takes place and Census provides figures for the same.
Participating in the discussion on the bill, Leader of the Opposition (LoP) and Congress President Mallikarjun Kharge said his party has extended unconditional support to the bill. But he remarked that the government should make sure that it does not turn into a ‘jumla’ (hollow promise).
“Tell us the date when you are going to implement the women’s reservation bill. Otherwise it will also be a jumla,” he quipped.
Kharge also demanded quota within quota for OBCs.
“We want to know from the government whether quota within quota would be provided to OBC women,” the LoP said.
The Statement of Objects and Reasons of the Constitution (128th Amendment) Bill, 2023 notes that the legislation will enable greater participation of women as public representative in policy making.
“In order to enable greater participation of women as public representative in policy making at State and national level, it is decided to introduce a fresh legislation for Constitutional amendment to provide for, as nearly as may be, one-third of total seats in the House of the People (Lok Sabha), the legislative assembly of every state and the Legislative Assembly of the National Capital Territory of Delhi to be reserved for women,” it says.
During the discussion, Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said that the bill has been very thoughtfully crafted considering that the country is at a very critical stage of the development process.
She also said that unlike SCs and STs, there was no mention of electoral reservation in the Constitution for OBCs.
Many opposition members questioned the timing of the bill and said that there should not have been any condition or caveat attached to the document.
Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) MP Vandana Chavan said the government can implement the bill in the 2024 election itself and there was no reason to delay it.
Reservation of seats for women in the Lok Sabha and state assemblies has been a long-pending demand. In the past, several attempts were made to push the legislation but failed. The last such attempt was made during the UPA-II government in 2010 when Rajya Sabha passed the Women’s reservation bill but it could not be passed in the Lok Sabha.
After passing the bill, Rajya Sabha was adjourned sine die.