After 27 years, the Indian parliament has approved the ‘Women Reservation Bill’ or Nari Shakti Wandan Adhiniyan with 454 out of 456 MPs voting in the Bill’s favor. The Bill aims to reserve one third seats for women in Lok Sabha and Vidhan Sabhas. The legislation has been widely hailed across India as an important measure to empower women, but owing to multiple technicalities it will take years to be implemented. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi sought to take full credit for and draw maximum political mileage out of the Bill. He said, “it is a historic moment in our country’s democratic journey.” While the Opposition owned the Bill and marked it historic, it expressed concerns about the delay related to the implementation of the Bill. This concern is derived from the fact that Union Home Minister Amit Shah said in his speech at Lok Sabha that the Bill will not be implemented in the 2024 elections; rather the next government will hold a census and delimitation exercise for Lok Sabha and State Assemblies.
On 19 September 2023, the 128th amendment was proposed to the Indian constitution regarding women’s representation in legislative assemblies as well as in the Lok Sabha. Earlier, similar Bills were introduced in 1996, 1998, 1999, and 2008.The first three Bills lapsed because of the dissolution of the respective Lok Sabhas; while the fourth one was approved by the Rajya Sabha but it also lapsed because of the Lok Sabha’s dissolution. However, the 1996 Bill, examined by the Joint Committee of Parliament, and the 2008 Bill, examined by the Standing Committee on Personnel, Public Grievances, Law and Justice, had agreed with the proposal to reserve seats for women. The latest Bill was passed with a majority, as no major controversy appeared regarding the representation of women. The Bill stipulates 33 percent women representation in Lok Sabha and the State Assemblies.