M A I N   N E W S

RS passes historic Women’s Reservation Bill 185:1 n BJP, Left support; Didi angry
Ajay Banerjee
Tribune News Service

Know The Bill

n Introduced on May 6, 2008 in Rajya Sabha
n Seeks to reserve one-third of seats for women in Lok Sabha and state Assemblies.
n Allocation of reserved seats shall be determined by the authority prescribed by Parliament.
n One third of the total seats reserved for SCs and STs shall be reserved for women from these groups in LS and Assemblies.
n Reserved seats may be allotted by rotation to different constituencies in the state or union territory.
n Reservation of seats for women shall cease to exist 15 years after the commencement of the amendment Act.

New Delhi, March 9
Fourteen years after it was envisaged, the Rajya Sabha this evening passed the landmark Women’s Reservation Bill that will pave the way for reserving 33 per cent seats for women in Parliament and state assemblies. But prior to that, the legislation has to be seen through in the Lok Sabha too.

Of the 186 members present in the Rajya Sabha today, 185 voted in favour of the Bill. Barring the parties from the Hindi-belt -- Samajwadi Party, Rashtriya Janata Dal and BSP -- all other parties that included the constituents of Congress-led UPA and BJP-led NDA supported the Bill that was to carry out the 108th amendment to the Constitution for enabling reservation. A three-hour passionate debate on rights of women and their status in society and culture had preceded the approval of the Bill in the afternoon.

The Congress-led UPA, the BJP-led NDA and also the Left parties were on the same side as the Parliament authored the “historic move”, which could upstage several well ensconced politicians but ensure proper representation of women, which languishes at 11 per cent in Lok Sabha.

A division of votes was called upon by Rajya Sabha Chairman Hamid Ansari, as is required for amending the Constitution. The strength of the House is 245. As on date, it has 233 members and two-thirds of them had to be present to vote for the Constitution amendment. An overwhelming 185 of the 186 members present in the Rajya Sabha voted in favour. The lone dissenter was farmer-activist Sharad Joshi, who now heads the Swatantra Bharat Paksh.

SP and RJD MPs walked out even before the discussion began. BSP’s leader in Upper House Satish Chandra Misra walked out after expressing his party’s point of view: “We support the cause of reservation, however, oppose the Bill in its present form.”

The Rajya Sabha was re-convened at 3 pm after three adjournments and Ansari immediately took up the Bill for discussion. The suspended members began their protests by shouting slogans. They were joined by other RJD and SP members and were later marshalled out. Opposition BJP and the Left today unequivocally supported the Women's Reservation Bill, describing it as “the most progressive” but slammed the government for mishandling the process of “historic” amendment to the Constitution.

Leader of Opposition Arun Jaitley said the measure was “historic”. “We are all discharging a historic responsibility in becoming instruments of enacting one of the most progressive legislations in recent Indian history. We are rewriting gender history,” he said.

Jaitley said he was perturbed by unsavoury incidents in the House. Brinda Karat of CPM said her party supported the Bill and she rejected some of the objections raised by parties like RJD and SP. She said the measure would help empower women at all levels.



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