Clarity eluded the government on Wednesday on the issue of ratification of the women’s reservation bill by at least half of the state assemblies once it is also passed by the Lok Sabha with two-thirds majority.
Ministers spoke in different voices on the issue, but the law ministry made it clear that the bill would be sent to the state assemblies for passing unanimous resolutions, terming it a “constitutional requirement”.
One view within the government, which is shared by some legal experts, is that since the “representation of states in Parliament” is not going to change with the implementation of the bill to reserve 181 Lok Sabha seats for women, the need for a ratification by the state assemblies did not arise.
They cited Article 368 of the Constitution, which defines the powers of the Parliament to amend the Constitution. “None of the provisions that warrant an amendment to the Constitution have been touched by the bill, therefore there is no need to send it to the assemblies,” sources in the government said.
Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Prithviraj Chavan said the matter was being examined by the Centre.
A top law ministry official, however, made it clear that the bill would be sent to the state assemblies for their ratification.
“It is a matter of interpretation and we will not take any chance. Different people are viewing Article 368 differently, but since the bill will alter the composition of the Lok Sabha and state assemblies, therefore treading with caution is better,” he said.
The official said the government could not leave any loose ends that could have the potential of being challenged in court.
Law Minister M. Veerappa Moily made it clear that the government would bring a fresh law after the women’s reservation bill becomes a law to decide which seats would be reserved and “all other matters related to its implementation”.
Leader of the Opposition in the Rajya Sabha and lawyer Arun Jaitley said he was yet to study the issue of ratification by state assemblies and would give his view after that.