India has witnessed a historic moment in its political landscape with the enactment of the Women's Reservation Bill, granting women 33 percent reservation in both the Lok Sabha and state Assemblies. This groundbreaking legislation received the presidential assent from President Droupadi Murmu, marking a significant stride toward gender equality in India's legislative history.
Union Law Minister Arjun Ram Meghwal expressed his enthusiasm for this pivotal development via Twitter, declaring, "With President Droupadi Murmu's approval of the historic ‘Nari Shakti Vandan Act-2023,’ this Bill has cemented its place in India's legal framework." The journey of this Bill began when Meghwal introduced it in the Lok Sabha on September 19, and it subsequently passed in the Rajya Sabha on September 21.
The official name bestowed upon this law is the Constitution (106th Amendment) Act. According to a gazette notification dated September 28, its enforcement date will be determined by the central government, which will notify it in the Official Gazette.
What distinguishes this bill is that it does not necessitate ratification by the states since it does not modify the actual number of seats allocated to each state in Parliament. This ensures that state representation in Parliament remains unaffected, as underscored by a government source.
Nonetheless, this deviation from the customary ratification process has raised some questions. Senior Congress leader Abhishek Singhvi shared his perspective, stating, "At first glance, the women's reservation Bill should have mandated ratification by 50 percent of the states because it introduces a mandatory change in the composition of each Assembly constituency." Despite this, there was no substantial opposition to the Bill on these grounds.
Late on Thursday evening, Minister Meghwal disclosed that Dhankhar had signed the Constitution (128th Amendment) Bill, 2023, exactly as it had been passed by both Houses of Parliament, enabling its presentation to the President for her assent under Article 111 of the Constitution.
Officially titled the ‘Nari Shakti Vandan Adhiniyam,’ this Act bestows 33 percent reservation for women in the Lok Sabha and state legislative Assemblies. Notably, it holds the distinction of being the first Bill to be passed in the newly inaugurated Parliament building. Furthermore, this reservation encompasses seats already allocated for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, marking a significant stride toward gender parity.
The Women's Reservation Bill garnered extensive support in the Lok Sabha. After an eight-hour debate on September 20, only two out of the over 450 members opposed it, demonstrating a remarkable consensus. The Bill also received unanimous approval in the Rajya Sabha during its passage a day later.
While the Upper House had previously passed a similar women's reservation Bill in 2010 during the Congress-led UPA government, it failed to progress in the Lok Sabha and subsequently lapsed.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi celebrated this legislative achievement, emphasizing its potential to enhance the representation and empowerment of women in the country. During the parliamentary debates, a few leaders raised concerns about the omission of the OBC sub-quota in the draft legislation. Nevertheless, the majority of the Opposition welcomed the Bill, acknowledging its historical significance in advancing gender equality in Indian politics.
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