The Union Cabinet Monday cleared the Women’s Reservation Bill (WRB) in a key meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, reports said. Minister of state for Food Processing Industries and Jal Shakti Prahlad Patel confirmed the development on X (formally known as Twitter), but later deleted the post.
“Only the Modi government had the moral courage to fulfil the demand for women’s reservation which was proved by the approval of the cabinet. Congratulations Narendra Modi ji and congratulations to the Modi government,” the minister had posted on X.
Reacting to the development senior Congress leader Jairam Ramesh wrote on X, “It’s been a long-standing demand of the Congress party to implement women’s reservation. We welcome the reported decision of the Union Cabinet and await the details of the Bill. This could have very well been discussed in the all-party meeting before the Special Session, and consensus could have been built instead of operating under a veil of secrecy.”
Last week, Bharat Rashtra Samithi (BRS) leader K Kavitha began a day-long hunger strike in New Delhi, demanding passage of the WRB. She was accompanied by TRS ministers Sabitha Indra Reddy and Satyavathi Rathod. BRS claimed that twelve political parties which include AAP, Akali Dal, TMC, JD(U), Samajwadi Party, RJD, RLD, and the Left Parties such as CPI(M) had confirmed their participation in the event.
What is the Women’s Reservation Bill
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.
Women’s Reservation Bill: History
It was former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi who in May 1989 first planted the seed of women reservation in elected bodies by introducing the Constitution Amendment Bill to provide one-third reservation for women in rural and urban local bodies. The Bill was passed in Lok Sabha but failed to get passed in Rajya Sabha in September 1989.
In 1992 and 1993, then prime minister P.V. Narasimha Rao reintroduced the Constitution Amendment Bills 72 and 73, which reserved one third (33%) of all seats and chairperson posts for women in rural and urban local bodies. The Bills were passed by both the houses and became the law of the nation. Now there are nearly 15 lakh elected women representatives in panchayats and nagarpalikas across the country.
September 12, 1996, then Deve Gowda-led United Front government for the first time introduced the 81st Constitution Amendment Bill in Lok Sabha for reservation of women in the Parliament. After the Bill failed to get approval in Lok Sabha, it was referred to a Joint Parliamentary Committee chaired by Geeta Mukherjee. The Mukherjee commttee presented its report in December 1996. However, the Bill lapsed with the dissolution of the Lok Sabha.
Two years later, the Atal Bihari Vajpayee-led NDA government pushed the WRB Bill in the 12th Lok Sabha in 1998. However, this time too, the Bill failed to get support, and lapsed again. It was subsequently reintroduced in 1999, 2002 and 2003 under the Vajpayee government, but with no success.
Five years later, the WRB bill again gained some traction during Manmohan Singh-led UPA government-1. In 2004, the government included it in its Common Minimum Programme and finally tabled it on 6 May 2008, this time in Rajya Sabha to prevent it from lapsing again. Five of the seven recommendations made by the 1996 Geeta Mukherjee Committee were included in this version of the Bill. The legislation was sent to the standing committee on May 9, 2008. The standing committee presented its report on December 17, 2009. It got the stamp of approval from the Union Cabinet in February 2010. The Bill was eventually passed in the Rajya Sabha with 186-1 votes on March 9, 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. Bills introduced/ passed in Rajya Sabha do not lapse, hence the Women’s Reservation Bill is still very much active.