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‘Very unlikely that 33% quota for women will be implemented in upcoming state Assembly polls’

The 128th Constitutional Amendment Bill, mandating 33 per cent quota for women in the Lok Sabha and all state Assemblies, including Delhi, was introduced in Lok Sabha on Tuesday by Law Minister Arjun Ram Meghwal, but a legal expert says that the provisions are very unlikely to be implemented in the upcoming Assembly polls in Chhattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Telangana, and Mizoram.

Senior Supreme Court advocate and Uttar Pradesh’s Additional Advocate General Ravindra Raizada says that the Bill being a Constitutional Amendment will not only require the special 2/3rd majority in both houses of the Parliament but will also be carried forward to the state Assemblies for ratification by at least half of them.

“It is a time-consuming process as state Assemblies are called for passing a resolution and nothing can be done on an emergent basis. Implementation of a constitutional amendment takes time,” he said.

Raizada emphasised that in the process of implementation, the role of the Election Commission will increase multi-fold as there will have to be a delimitation of constituencies.

“Because once you reserve a seat out of existing seats, delimitation would be the main issue that would arise. In simple terms, delimitation means which constituency will be exclusively reserved for women,” he said.

The quota for women is likely to be completely rolled out nation-wide in 2029 post completion of delimitation exercise and will continue for a term of 15 years.

Giving an example, Raizada said that if the Uttar Pradesh Assembly dissolves in 2027 on completion of its five-year term, the reservation will come into effect from polls for 2027, adding that the provisions are very unlikely to be implemented in the upcoming state polls to five states.

He clarified that the Constitutional Amendment, once qualified for implementation, will be applicable throughout all the states across the country even if any state had passed a resolution against the Bill providing for 1/3rd women quota.

On the question of permissibility under the Constitution, Raizada said that there is absolutely no prohibition in the Constitution for taking such affirmative action in favour of women and in fact, Article 15(3) of the Constitution allows creation of special provisions for women and children.

He believes that representation of women in the legislature will certainly expand beyond the specified percentage as that women, in addition to quota seats, will certainly secure other non-quota seats as the Bill does not prohibit women to continue contesting elections in other constituencies.

According to the Bill, seats reserved for women will be rotated after each delimitation exercise to be carried out in accordance with the law made by the Parliament.

Notably, the Bill does not intend to alter the composition of the present Lok Sabha or existing Legislative Assemblies but will apply once they are freshly constituted on completion of their respective tenure or on being dissolved for any other cause.

In August, the Supreme Court had questioned the Centre over delay in filing its reply on a PIL seeking re-introduction of the Women’s Reservation Bill, 2008. “You have not filed a reply. Why are you shying away?” it had asked Additional Solicitor General K.M. Natraj, representing the Centre.

The top court had said that the issue is “too important” and queried the ASG if the Centre intends to implement the one-third women quota.

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