Union Home Minister Amit Shah said on Wednesday that irrespective of the Opposition’s support, the women’s reservation Bill will be implemented only after 2029.
According to the 128th Constitutional Amendment Bill, 2023, or the Nari Shakti Vandan Adhiniyam, reservation of one-third of seats for women in Lok Sabha and State Assemblies shall come into effect after an exercise of delimitation is undertaken based on figures from the first Census that is conducted after the Act is enacted. On Wednesday, the Bill was passed by the Lok Sabha. The Bill would become an Act when the President gives her assent after it has been passed by the Rajya Sabha too this week.
Mr. Shah said in the Lok Sabha that the Census and the delimitation exercise will be conducted immediately after the general election. However, he did not specify the dates for the delayed Census that has remained under ambiguity since 2021 despite the apparatus being ready.
The last Census was held in 2011. Centre initially attributed the COVID-19 pandemic for postponing the exercise that was to start in two phases in 2020 and conclude by March 31, 2021. The previous two notifications by the Registrar General of India (RGI) did not specify any reason for the delay.
Delimitation means the act or process of fixing limits or boundaries of territorial constituencies in a country to represent changes in population. The last delimitation exercise took place in 1976 and the current boundaries of Lok Sabha and State Assembly constituencies were drawn on the basis of the 2001 Census. The number of seats have remained frozen on the basis of the 1971 Census. Through a Constitutional amendment in 2002, a freeze was placed on delimitation, until the first Census is conducted after the year 2026.
“A narrative is being set on social media that the Bill should not be supported as it is linked to delimitation and the Act will not be implemented in the coming election. Some say the Bill does not have OBC or Muslim reservation. Will the reservation be implemented early, if you do not support the Bill? Then too it will be implemented only after 2029. Support the Bill... Make a start at least,” Mr. Shah said while pointing to the Opposition benches.
He added, “After [Lok Sabha] election, Census and delimitation will be done immediately and soon, the day will come when women will occupy one-third of seats in the House and decide the future of the country.” The general election is scheduled to be held in April-May 2024.
DMK MP Kanimozhi had, in her speech in the Lok Sabha expressed fears that the connection between the Census and delimitation, frozen till 2026, may lead to reduction in representation of the southern States. “I refer to the statement by Tamil Nadu Chief Minister M.K. Stalin on the matter of delimitation, where he says that India is the only country that has not conducted the decadal Census. If delimitation is going to be based on population Census, it will deprive and reduce the representation of South Indian States. It will become like a sword hanging over our heads,” she said.
She also expressed concerns that there could be an inordinate delay in implementing the Bill. She referred to Clause 5 of the current Bill under discussion, that stipulates that the reservation of seats in Lok Sabha and State Assemblies and in the National Capital Region of Delhi will be implemented after delimitation takes place and after the Census provides figures for the same. All of it point to a situation where the Bill, even after turning into law will not be applicable in the upcoming 2024 election or the State Assembly elections held around the same time, she said.