New Slate of Amendments

As parliament stumbles into the Winter Session, one should note that there are five constitutional amendments on its legislative agenda. The most prominent of course is the Women’s Reservation Amendment (108th) which proposes to reserve 33% of seats in the Lok Sabha and state legislatures (but curiously not in the Rajya Sabha which is perhaps why they passed it). The 110th and 112th Amendments seek to increase women’s reservation in village panchayats and town municipalities to 50% (some states like Bihar have already implemented it).

The 111th Amendment Bill seeks to create a new Directive Principle of State Policy and provide a mechanism for implementing the same. The proposed Art 43 B of Constitution shall ask to state to endeavor to ” promote voluntary formation, autonomous functioning, democratic control and professional management of co-operative societies.” It recognizes that coorperative societies in India are economically important but are often not transparent and democratic. Interestingly coooperative socities come under Entry 32 of the State List, and the central legislation for the same is being justified as a demand raised during “consultations with the State Governments
have been held at several occasions and in the conferences of State Co-operative Ministers.”

The amendment seeks to empower the Parliament in respect of multi-State co-operative societies and the State Legislatures in case of other co-operative societies to make appropriate law. These laws are expected to have provisions for incorporation, regulation and winding up of co-operative societies based on the principles of democratic member-control, member-economic participation and autonomous functioning. It also specifies term limits for directors, strict enforcement of meetings of the boards, independent audits, subjects cooperative societies to the right to information, requires them to submit periodic reports and accounts to the state governments and provides for reservation of SC/ST/Women on the board.

The 113th Amendment seeks to change Oriya in the list of recognized languages to Odia.

The plethora of amendments makes it pernitent to ask whether any of the above changes (perhaps with the exception of the spelling of Odia) were required to be done through constitutional amendment. Would an ordinary law that increased reservation in local bodies for women or a national legislation regulating cooperatives withstand constitutional scrutiny?

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