Neena Vyas

NEW DELHII: If the government has worked out a strategy for the passage of the Women's Reservation Bill, it is keeping it close to its chest. One source indicated it would take a “call” on Monday morning.

There are different views on various possibilities. Should a handful of MPs be allowed to subvert the will of the House, which they have been doing successfully for the past 15 years?

“Such an important Bill ought to be debated, then passed or rejected. There is no room for lung or muscle power in Parliament,” said Communist Party of India MP Gurudas Dasgupta.

If the Bill, which provides for 33 per cent reservation for women in the Lok Sabha and the Assemblies, were to be passed despite disorder in the House, would it not be a bad precedent that future governments could use to declare passed Bills that do not find favour with the majority? Some MPS did say it would be a sad day if Parliament were to pass such an important Bill through din and noise.

The Bill was sent to a parliamentary committee after it was introduced in the Rajya Sabha in 2008. The committee was then chaired by E.M. Sudarsana Natchiappan but later it was headed by Jayanti Natarajan. She told The Hindu that the committee recommended that the Bill be presented and passed in its original form without any change.

According to the statement of objects and reasons, as a first step towards empowerment of women, reservation was provided to them in panchayats and elected local bodies. The next step is reservation in the Lok Sabha and the State Assemblies. The Joint Committee of Parliament, which studied the Bill, “strengthened” it by working out a way to give women reservation even in those States and Union Territories, where the total number of seats was less than three. The Bill was first introduced in the 11th Lok Sabha in 1996, and again in 1998 in the next House. It lapsed on both occasions and another attempt was made in 1999.

There was a buzz in Parliament on Friday that the government would bring in some amendments, but these are technical like change of nomenclature as the Constitution (Ninety-Sixth Amendment) Bill, 2010. The opening sentence that it “be enacted by Parliament in the 59th year of the Republic of India” will be changed to the “61st year of the Republic.”