Lok Sabha passes women’s reservation bill

09:35PM Wed 20 Sep, 2023

The Lok Sabha passed the Women's Reservation Bill with 454 votes on Wednesday evening. The Nari Shakti Vandan Adhiniyam will grant 33% seats to women in the Lower House of Parliament as well as state legislative assemblies. Implementation of the proposed law can however take several more years – a fact that was vehemently underscored by Opposition leaders.

“The proposal has been passed with more than a two-thirds majority of the members present in the house," Speaker Om Birla announced after the voting.

454 MPs voted in favour of the bill while two MPs voted against it. The bill will now have to be approved by the parliament's upper house and at least half of India's state assemblies before being promulgated into a law.

Six attempts to pass the bill have been thwarted since it was first introduced in 1996, at times with vehement resistance from lawmakers. Currently India has a mere 104 women MPs (out of nearly 800) as per official figures. 

The quota will only take effect once India conducts the 2021 census – postponed indefinitely amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Irate Opposition leaders have suggested that the Bill is election ‘jumla’ intended to “gets the headlines today". Lawmakers have also flagged the lack of reservation for OBCs or the Muslim community.

“Some people on social media are saying that this bill should not be supported as there is no reservation of OBC, Muslims. If you don’t support this bill, will reservation happen sooner? If you support this bill, then will at least be guarantee..." Home Minister Amit Shah told the Lok Sabha. 

No timeframe has been given for the census and delimitation exercise – and in turn for the start of women's reservation.

“Census and delimitation exercises will be conducted soon after the elections, and women will have a greater voice in the Parliament," Shah informed the Lok Sabha on Wednesday.

(With inputs from agencies)