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Women’s Reservation in the Indian Parliament


The idea of having more women representation in Parliament existed before Independence, in the Constituent Assembly and even in Independent India. This idea and the issue of ensuring greater representation of women in politics started gaining some momentum after the 1970s. This bill has been very important for all the women who are in politics or want to get into politics. This bill gives them hope and can make sure that they get to be part of the world's biggest democracies, get the opportunity to table ideas and lead the country into a better and brighter future. This is the value of this bill.

The Bill

The Nari Shakti Vandan Adhiniyam, also known as the Women's Reservation Bill 2023 (128th Constitutional Amendment Bill).

The bill reserves a third of the seats in the Delhi assembly, State legislatures, and the Lok Sabha. The seats set aside for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in the Lok Sabha and State Legislatures would also fall under this.

Key features

  • In the seats reserved for SCs/STs, the Bill sought to provide one-third of the seats to be reserved for women on a rotational basis.

  • Reservation for Women in State Legislative Assemblies:

  • The Bill introduces Article 332A, which mandates reserving seats for women in every state Legislative Assembly.

  • Additionally, one-third of the seats reserved for SCs and STs must be allocated for women, and one-third of the total seats filled through direct elections to the Legislative Assemblies shall also be reserved for women.

  • Reservation for Women in NCT of Delhi (New clause in 239AA).

  • Seats reserved for women will be rotated after each delimitation, as determined by a law made by Parliament.

  • The Constitution 108th Amendment Bill, 2008 seeks to reserve one-third (33%) of the total number of seats in state legislative Assemblies and Parliament for women. The bill proposes sub-reservation for SCs, STs and Anglo-Indians within the 33% quota. Reserved seats may be allotted by rotation to different constituencies in the state or union territory. The bill says that the reservation of seats for women shall cease to exist 15 years after the commencement of the amendment act.

History of the Bill

In 1989, former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi planted the seed of women's reservation in the elected bodies. He introduced the Constitution Amendment Bill to provide one-third reservation for women in rural and urban local bodies. The Bill was passed in the Lok Sabha but failed to pass in the Rajya Sabha. In 1992 and 1993, then Prime Minister P.V. Narasimha Rao reintroduced Bills 72 and 73, which reserved one-third of all seats and chairperson posts for women in rural and urban local bodies. The Bills were passed by both houses and became the law of the nation. This led to nearly 15 lakh elected women representatives in panchayats and nagarpalikas across the country.

In 1996, the United Front government introduced the 81st Constitution Amendment Bill for the reservation of women in Parliament. The bill failed in the Lok Sabha and was then referred to a Joint Parliamentary Committee. Two years later, the Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led NDA government pushed the WRB Bill in the 12th Lok Sabha in 1998, but it failed to get support and lapsed again. The Vajpayee government subsequently reintroduced the bill in 1999, 2002 and 2003 but that bore no success. Five years later, the WRB (Women’s Reservation Bill) bill gained traction during the Manmohan Singh-led UPA government-1. The bill was included in the Common Minimum Programme and finally tabled in the Rajya Sabha in 2008 so that it wouldn’t lapse again. The bill was passed by the Rajya Sabha in 2010. However, the Bill was never taken up for consideration in the Lok Sabha and eventually lapsed in 2014 with the dissolution of the Lok Sabha.

When did the bill pass?

The Nari Shakti Vandan Adhiniyam or Women’s Reservation Bill (WRB) was passed recently. 27 years after the bill was first introduced in Parliament, the Lok Sabha passed the bill on September 20 with near unanimity to amend the Constitution and provide one-third reservation to women in Lok Sabha and State Assemblies.

This bill was introduced by the current government i.e., the Modi-led BJP Government. A Special Parliament Session from 18th to 22nd September was held. The bill was introduced on the first day, the 19th of September, and it was passed by the Lok Sabha on the 20th with 454 for and 2 against the bill. The bill was passed by the Rajya Sabha on the 21st with 214 for and none against the bill. President Droupadi Murmu gave her assent to the bill on the 29th of September.

Even though the bill has been passed now and the Constitution has been amended, it won't come into action for a few more years.

Why isn’t it getting implied now?

The long-awaited moment for Women of India had arrived when the bill was passed, and the assent was given. Still, the journey for women isn’t over, unfortunately. It has been said by the Government that it will take a few more years for the bill to come into action. By 2029 or after it the time may come when women will get 33% reservation in the Parliament. This huge 6-year delay is because of two major factors, Census and Delimitation.

Census - A census is the procedure of systematically acquiring, recording, and calculating population information about the members of a given population. This term is used mostly in connection with national population and housing censuses; other common censuses include censuses of agriculture, traditional culture, business, supplies, and traffic censuses. The census started in independent India in year 1951 and happens every 10 years. 2011 was the latest census of India, it was going to be conducted after 10 years i.e., in 2021 but due to the COVID-19 crisis, our government had to postpone it.

Delimitation – Delimitation means limiting or setting a boundary on something. Lok Sabha seats of the parliament have been delimited. We can understand this through a few articles namely, Article 81(3) and Article 82 of the Constitution.

Article 81 says that the number of seats will be restricted to 530 members chosen by direct election to the Lok Sabha, in addition to the 20 members chosen either through election or nomination from the Union Territories. Article 81 (3) says that these seats will be decided based on the 1971 decadal census. Against the backdrop of the current Women’s Reservation Bill, Article 82 becomes more important. Article 82 refers to the provision that reallocation of seats (delimitation) could be done only after every decennial census to ensure fair representation of all regions.

The delimitation commission, established after India's independence, was responsible for reallocating Lok Sabha seats based on census data. However, the Emergency in 1976(42nd Amendment Act) froze seat delimitation until the 2001 census. In 2001, The Atal Bihari Vajpayee government in 2001 froze constituency numbers until 2026 (84th Amendment Act), preventing any delimitation before the 2026 census. Article 82 virtually bars any delimitation of constituencies before the 2026 census. The freeze was introduced to ensure regions with better population control did not get left behind in parliamentary representation. The delimitation commission redrew Lok Sabha seats again ahead of the 2009 general elections but did not increase the number of Lok Sabha seats because of the freeze in place.

Census has been linked with delimitation in the case of Women’s Reservation. As per the Government, the next Census can start mid 2024 and it will release its final report by 2026. In 2026 after the census comes in and the government is allowed to redraw the Lok Sabha seats (as per Article 82), the effect can only come into place by the 2029 Lok Sabha elections when women will get the 33% reservation of seats.

Even though many experts believe that it is highly unlikely that the quota could be introduced by 2029, the current Modi-led BJP Government is promising to start the census by mid-2024 and then introduce the women’s quota by 2029.

Opposition Party’s Reaction:

The fact that in Lok Sabha the bill passed with almost a full majority (only 2 against) and in Rajya Sabha it passed with a full majority shows that our politicians themselves are more than motivated to bring in the quota and more representation of women in the parliament. Even though unity was there in passing the bill, the Opposition Parties still had some issues regarding the bill.

· Congress has called out the bill, saying that it is a "huge betrayal of the hopes of crores of Indian women." They also said that the government was making vague promises.

· Jairam Ramesh on X (formerly Twitter) posted, “In a season of election jumlas, this one is the biggest of them all! A huge betrayal of the hopes of crores of Indian women and girls.

As we had pointed out earlier, the Modi government has not yet conducted the 2021 Decadal Census making India the only country in G20 that has failed to carry out the Census.

Now it says that 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. Will the Census and delimitation be done before the 2024 elections?

The Bill gets the headlines today with a very vague promise of its implementation date. This is nothing but EVM — EVent Management”.

· AIMIM leader Asaduddin Owaisi was quoted by news agency PTI as saying, "We have never been against women empowerment. However, if a law is being made, OBC and Muslim women must get a share in that quota."

· Former MP Prakash Ambedkar also took to X (formerly Twitter) to say that he had concerns about the Bill. He said, "This “incomplete” Bill is an eyewash. It is a political gimmick by the BJP aimed only to sell itself to the women to exclude them in a real sense."

· Delhi minister and Aam Aadmi Party leader Atishi addressed a press conference and said, "This is a Bill to fool women, the earliest this Bill can be implemented is in 2027 or 2028. But the government is trying to fool women for the 2024 elections," she said.

Atishi demanded that the government shouldn't tie the implementation to the census or delimitation and amend the Bill so that it can be implemented for the 2024 elections.

People’s reaction to the Bill

One of the major issues and people’s reactions to the bill is that the bill only reserves 33% of seats for women in the Lok Sabha and state assemblies and does not include a quota for women from the OBCs. Unlike Scheduled Castes (SCs) and Scheduled Tribes (STs), the Constitution does not provide for political reservation for OBCs in the Lok Sabha or state assemblies.

Critics argue that OBCs who constitute 41% of the population (National Sample Survey Organisation Survey 2006) are inadequately represented in the Lok Sabha, State Legislatures and Local governments. They have been demanding a separate quota for themselves in the Lok Sabha and state assemblies, like the reservation for SCs and STs. However, the government has not implemented such a quota, citing legal and constitutional hurdles.

Another one of the major issues that people are having is the wait time till 2029. Even though some are rejoicing about the fact that women's reservation is finally here most of them are disappointed about the fact that it will take many more years to be implemented in the Parliament.


No doubt it has been a long run for women in our country to have a say, especially in the parliament. Even though the journey has been extended by 5 more years, the fact that the bill passed with near unanimity in both houses after 27 years shows that this country is progressing and developing over time. Earlier, unfortunately, our country was very much behind in the matter of quotas and reservations for women and their upliftment. But the passing of this bill brings about a new dawn in India’s future which will hopefully lead us to better heights.

- Krushna Panjabi


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