New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday sought the response of the Centre on a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) seeking re-introduction of the Women’s Reservation Bill, 2008 which contemplates reservation of 33 per cent seats in the Lok Sabha and all state Legislative Assemblies for women.
The plea, moved by the National Federation of Indian Women (NFIW), was listed before the bench of Justice Sanjiv Khanna and Justice J. K. Maheshwari and after noting that it is an important matter, the bench directed the petitioner to serve notice to the Centre.
The plea pointed out that the bill was not passed despite promises, and that it and its primary objectives have been publicly supported by the mainstream political parties including the present regime.
It said that the election manifestoes of the political parties such as the BJP, the Congress, the AIADMK, the DMK, the Shiromani Akali Dal, the Communist Party of India-Marxist, the Biju Janata Dal, the Samajwadi Party, and the Nationalist Congress Party have included the promise of passing the Women’s Reservation Bill.
In view thereof, it is submitted that while the Bill enjoys the support of a majority of mainstream political parties including the present government, still the Bill has not seen the light of the day, it contended, and alleged that there are bogus reasons for delay.
It submitted that it has been 25 years since the first Women’s Reservation Bill was introduced in the Lok Sabha in 1996, and the government has time and again provided frivolous reasons for the delay in passing of the Bill. It is submitted that the main reasons quoted by the respondent for not passing the Bill is the need for further consideration and consensus between political parties.
It is relevant to point out that the Bill had been passed by the Rajya Sabha after due deliberation and must therefore enjoy a certain degree of credibility in terms of the very many benefits it will afford once it is passed, the plea said.
It submitted that although equality of the sexes is enshrined in the Constitution, it has not become a reality even in the 75th year of Indian Independence. Women represent almost 50 per cent of the population of India but their representation in the Parliament is only about 14 per cent. Therefore, vigorous affirmative action is required to be taken in order to improve the condition of women.
Additionally, the reservation for women in panchayats is an apt example to show that women elected under the reservation policy invest more in the public goods closely linked to women’s concerns, thereby increasing the distribution of resources in favour of women, it said.