Describe Women’s Reservation Bill and Reservation for Women in Panchayati Raj

The Women’s Reservation Bill or The Constitution (108th Amendment) Bill, 9th March 2010, is a pending bill in the Parliament of India. The main proposal of the bill is to make amends in the Constitution of India and reserve at least 1/3rd of all seats in the Lower house of Parliament of India, the Lok Sabha, and in all state legislative assemblies for women. It was proposed that the seats should be reserved in rotation and would have been determined by the draw of lots in such a way that a seat would be reserved only once in three consecutive general elections.

The bill was passed by the Rajya Sabha on 9 March 2010 but the bill was never voted on by the Lok Sabha. As a result, it Lapsed because it was still pending in Lok Sabha during which time, the Lok Sabha expired two times in 2014 and 2019.

Highlights of the Bill

The main highlights of the bill were are as follows:

  1. The Constitution (One Hundred and Eighth Amendment) Bill, 2008 wishes to reserve at least one-third of all seats for women in the Lok Sabha and the state legislative assemblies.  The allocation of reserved seats was to be determined by such authority as prescribed by Parliament.
  2. One-third of the total number of seats would be reserved for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes and it shall also be reserved for women belonging to those groups in the Lok Sabha and the legislative assemblies.
  3. The seats would be allotted to women by rotation to different constituencies in the state or union territory.
  4. The reservation of seats for women ceased to exist after 15 years of the commencement of this Amendment Act.

Issues of Bill

The main issues of this bill were as follows:

  1. The reservation policy was characterized by divergent policies. Proponents stress the need for affirmative action to empower the improvement of the condition of women. Some recent studies on panchayats show that there has been a positive effect of the bill in the reservation on the empowerment of women and on the allocation of resources.
  2. Opponents argue that it would increase the unequal status of women because they would not be perceived to be competing on merit. They also believe that this policy distracts the attention from the bigger issues of electoral reform such as the criminalization of politics and inner-party democracy.
  3. Reservation of seats in Parliament restricts the choice of voters to female candidates. Therefore, some experts have recommended the use of alternative methods such as reservation in political parties and dual member constituencies.
  4. Rotation of reserved constituencies in every election may make an MP ineligible for reelection from that constituency which may decrease the incentive for an MP to work for his constituency.
  5. The 1996 women’s reservation Bill report suggested that reservations must be provided for women of Other Backward Classes (OBCs) after the Constitution was amended to allow for reservations for OBCs. It also stressed the extension of the reservation to the Rajya Sabha and the Legislative Councils.

Despite all the efforts, no recommendations of the bill have been incorporated or implemented to date but it has impacted the reservation of women.

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