Big question answered: New Parliament, New Bill...When Women's Reservation Bill will come into effect?

On Tuesday - September 19, India's iconic Parliament building, that was built during the British era, has gone extinct as the country witnessed the lawmakers gathering in the new Parliament building that was inaugurated in May. The inauguration itself had sparked a storm of controversy as Prime Minister Narendra Modi inaugurated it in the presence of Hindu seers by not inviting the country's constitutional head and highest office holder, the President of India. 

In the midst of fury and the boycott from the opposition for not inviting the President, the Modi regime had appeared not to be concerned about President Droupadi Murmu's absence and a similar sentiment was resembled today in the saffron camp when the MPs rubbed shoulders for a group photo at the old parliament building before moving to their newly built chambers. 

Despite several controversies that swirl around the new Parliament building, the second day of the current special session was convened here on Tuesday during which the Women's Reservation Bill was introduced. The bill, named 'Nari Shakti Vandan Adhiniyam', was tabled at a much larger Lok Sabha chamber by Union Law Minister Arjun Ram Meghwal.

The bill proposes 33 per cent reservation for women in the Lok Sabha and the state legislative assemblies. In what has become a crucial opening for the new Parliament building, the government said that the bill is aimed to enabling greater participation of women in policy-making at state and national levels. According to reports, the proposed bill was first introduced 27 years ago and passed by the Rajya Sabha 13 years ago. 

On the front of when this bill would come into effect, it appears that the legislation will take its effect after the next delimitation exercise, which would be conducted after the first census and the earliest that 33% of seats in Lok Sabha will be occupied by women will be 2029. Speaking about the bill, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that his government was finally ready to enact the Women's Reservation Bill. 

Modi termed this decision 'historic' and said that there are certain days which are considered milestones in the history of every country. He said, "Such milestones come in the development journey of every country, when it proudly says that today we have created a new history. In the first speech of the first session of the new house, I am saying with great confidence and pride that today's moment, today's day is going to be recorded in history." 

The following are the key provisions of the Women's Reservation Bill: 

  • The bill proposes 33 per cent seats for women in Lok Sabha, state legislative assemblies, and the Delhi assembly. However, this provision won't apply to Rajya Sabha and the state legislative councils. 
  • Reservation of seats shall come into effect after delimitation is undertaken after the appropriate figures for the first census have been published. 
  • Rotation of the seats reserved for women in Lok Sabha and state assemblies shall take place after each subsequent exercise of delimitation. 
  • No two women MPs will be allowed to contest one seat. 
  • In the reservation, one-third shall be reserved for women from the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes. 
  • The bill will exclude reservations for women from the OBC category. 

Why delay in implementing the Bill? 

As the Bill says that the provisions relating to the reservation of seats for women shall come into effect after an exercise of delimitation is undertaken following the relevant census, there is a mammoth task before the implementation. The work for the 2021 census was deferred in 2020 in the wake of the Covid pandemic and the government is yet to announce a new date and schedule for commencing the census. 

If the census is held after the 2024 Lok Sabha polls, the results would take a year to get compiled and published. Following the publication of the census, the government will begin the delimitation exercise and it would run for another two years. When India goes for the general election in 2024, this bill wouldn't have been enacted into a law and the voters would be giving a new mandate and new members next year.

So, even this bill comes into effect in 2026 or anytime around 2027, the mandate given by voters in 2024 can't be dissolved. We can assume that though the new government passes this bill before 2029, the bill would take its real effect when the Lok Sabha welcomes 33 per cent of women in 2029.