454 vs 2: Lok Sabha passes women's Bill; Amit Shah says to be effective post 2029 : The Tribune India

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454 vs 2: Lok Sabha passes women's Bill; Amit Shah says to be effective post 2029

Sonia Gandhi pitches for OBC quota within reserved seats, instant application | Rajya Sabha to take it up today

Tribune News Service

Aditi Tandon

New Delhi, September 20

The Lok Sabha on Wednesday passed the historic constitutional amendment Bill to reserve 33 per cent seats for women in Parliament, state Assemblies and Delhi Assembly, with the government clarifying that the quota provisions would come into effect after 2029 once the delimitation exercise followed by a census was completed.

The Bill was passed with 454 votes in favour and two against it. The clarification on implementation came from Home Minister Amit Shah after Congress MPs Sonia Gandhi and Rahul Gandhi led the debate on behalf of the Opposition. INDIA bloc parties backed the Bill with three demands — hold a caste census, ensure OBC reservation and implement it immediately.

Home Minister Amit Shah and Congress MP Sonia Gandhi during the debate in the Lok Sabha. PTI

Historic bill will further boost women’s empowerment

Thank MPs across party lines who voted in support of this Bill. Nari Shakti Vandan Adhiniyam is a historic legislation that’ll boost women’s empowerment. Narendra Modi, PM

“Delimitation and census are not needed. Give 33 per cent quota immediately,” Wayanad MP Rahul said during the nine-hour debate, after Sonia Gandhi, the first speaker from the opposition side, said it would be gross injustice to make women wait any further for their rights.

“Women have already waited for 13 years and are now being asked to wait for two, four, eight more years? How many more? This is not appropriate. The Bill should be implemented immediately,” said the Rae Bareli MP. She was also the first opposition speaker to pitch for caste census and inclusion of OBC reservation in the women’s Bill — a position the Congress had taken in its Udaipur Chintan Shivir Resolution in May 2022.

After her many opposition leaders, including NCP’s Supriya Sule, DMK’s Kanimozhi, SP’s Dimple Yadav, JDU’s Rajiv Singh and BSP’s Sangeeta Azad, reiterated the OBC quota call.

The BSP even sought 50% women’s reservation instead of 33% with party chief Mayawati asking for removal of all provisions that could potentially delay the reservation. Answering questions raised by the Opposition later in the debate that saw political point-scoring with the Congress and allies seeking credit for the Bill, Shah said Article 82 of the Constitution provided for the exercise of delimitation to reserve seats and this exercise stood frozen till 2026. “We are asked why the delimitation? Who will reserve the seats? Should we reserve? What if Wayanad gets reserved for women? You will then say the reservation is politically motivated. So it is best that the quasi-judicial Delimitation Commission, tasked by the Constitution for a certain job, through open hearings across states, decides which seats to reserve for women,” said Shah in a dig at Rahul. The Home Minister said the sole aim behind the provision of quotas after delimitation was to ensure political transparency. “Let us pass the Bill. The credit will go to this Parliament, the credit will be collective.”

On Opposition’s push for immediate rollout of women’s quota, Shah said the census and delimitation would take place after the next elections (2024 Lok Sabha poll).

“A campaign is being run on social media against this Bill, saying its provisions will not take effect in the next elections. If you do not support this Bill, will reservation come into effect earlier? Even then, it will come after 2029. So please support the Bill, ensure the guarantee of one-third reservation. Start the process. If the Bill is incomplete, we can improve it tomorrow,” said Shah, one of the 60 participants. The HM’s target was Rahul Gandhi, who had termed the Bill incomplete over the absence of OBC quota and said it was designed to “push the ball forward by seven to eight years”. Defending the draft law earlier, Women and Child Development Minister Smriti Irani quoted Article 82 of the Constitution which provides for delimitation as the constitutional process for readjusting constituencies and asked the Opposition, “Do you want us to disregard the Constitution?”

All opposition leaders backed the Bill with many, including Sonia Gandhi, invoking late PM Rajiv Gandhi and saying he had “brought one-third reservation in local bodies because of which India today had 15 lakh elected women leaders at the grassroots”.

The debate witnessed intense Opposition posturing in favour of a caste census in this crucial election year with Rahul Gandhi even saying: “If you don’t release the caste census data, we will.”

Union Law Minister Arjun Ram Meghwal in his reply before the passage of the Bill said its provisions were meant to “guarantee the implementation of the quota”.

“Do you want the Bill to fail the test of law? How can we reserve seats today? You people will be the first to move the Supreme Court with PILs. This time we will not let the Bill fail,” Meghwal said as government speakers recalled how the Bill failed on four past occasions — September 1996 (under PM HD Deve Gowda); 1998 and 1999 (PM AB Vajpayee) and 2008 (PM Manmohan Singh). Every time the Bill was brought it lapsed with the dissolution of the Lok Sabha under provisions of Article 107 of the Constitution.

The Bill will be taken up by the Rajya Sabha on Thursday.

#Amit Shah #Lok Sabha #Rajya Sabha #Sonia Gandhi

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