There are reserved constituencies in both Parliamentary and State Assembly elections. Candidates of General category are not eligible to contest from these constituencies. All voters are to vote for one of the candidates (from Scheduled Castes or Schedule Tribes). In case of Municipal elections and other Local Bodies elections, the constituencies are known as Wards. Thus, there may be as many Wards or Constituencies as the number of elected seats in the elected body. Reserved constituencies are those constituencies in which seats are reserved for SCs and STs on the basis of their population.
In earlier History of India under British rule, separate electorate meant not only were the seats reserved for a specific community, but voting for the reserved constituency was allowed for only members of that specific community. For example, only Muslims could vote for Muslim candidates in the reserved constituencies for Muslims.
An electorate is a group of voters, namely, all the officially qualified voters within a particular country or area or for a particular election. A joint electorate is one where the entire voting population of a country or region is part of a single electorate, and the entire electorate votes for the candidates who contest in the elections.
In the case of separate electorates, the voting population of a country or region is divided into different electorates, based on certain factors such as religion, caste, gender, and occupation. Here, members of each electorate votes only to elected representatives for their electorate. Separate electorates are usually demanded by minorities who feel it would otherwise be difficult for them to get fair representation in government. For example, separate electorate for Muslims means that Muslims will choose their separate leader by separate elections for Muslims.
In India's pre-independence era, when the Muslims in India demanded fair representation in power-sharing with the British government along with the Hindus in 1906, the British government provided for a separate electorate system for the Muslims in Indian Council Act 1909. As a result, of the total 250 seats of the Bengal Legislative Assembly, 117 seats were kept reserved for the Muslims. Accordingly, the general elections of 1937 were held on the basis of the extended separate electorates, where only the Muslims voted for the 117 seats, in Bengal.
Again, in the Round Table Conferences in 1930-32, the concept of separate electorates for the so-called Untouchables (now called SC/ST) was raised by Dr. B. R. Ambedkar, as a way to ensure sufficient representation for the minority SC/ST communities, in government. This provision was strongly opposed by Gandhi on the grounds that the move would disintegrate Hindu society. If the SC/ST communities were given a separate electorate, then certain constituencies would have been reserved for them, and only the people belonging to SC/ST communities would have been able to vote for the candidates contesting those seats, thus alienating the rest of the Hindus. Finally, a compromise was reached with Ambedkar and Gandhi with the Poona Pact in which the parties agreed that certain constituencies would be reserved for the SC/ST communities, where the people belonging to SC/ST communities could elect 4 candidates per constituency who would then be candidates for election by the joint electorate.
The Anglo-Indian community is the only Indian community that has its own representatives nominated to the Lok Sabha (Lower House) in India's Parliament. This right was secured from Nehru by Frank Anthony, the first and longtime president of the All India Anglo-Indian Association. The community is represented by two members. This is done because the community has no native state of its own. States like Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh, Uttarakhand and West Bengal also have a nominated member each in their respective State Legislatures.
A number of seats in the Parliament of India, State Assemblies, Municipalities and Village level institutions are reserved for Scheduled Castes (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (ST). Though seats are reserved for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes, they are elected by all the voters in a constituency, without any separate electorate. Also a member of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes is not debarred from contesting a general i.e. non-reserved seat. This system was introduced by the Constitution of India in 1950 and was supposed to be in place for the first 10 years, to ensure participation in politics by these groups which were deemed weak and needing special protection. Under 95th amendment to Indian Constitution , this reservation is to last until 2020..
The population figure of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in percentage terms with reference to the total population figure had increased from 14.6% in 1971 census to 16.2% in 2001 census. Similarly, the population figure of Scheduled Tribes had increased from 6.9% in 1971 census to 8.2% in 2001 census. The overall increase of population figure of SC and ST in 2001 census has led the Delimitation Commission to increase the seats for Scheduled Castes in Lok Sabha from 79 to 84 and for Scheduled Tribes from 41 to 47 out of 543 constituencies, as per Delimitation of Parliamentary & Assembly Constituencies Order - 2008.
Allocation of seats for Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in the Lok Sabha are made on the basis of proportion of Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes in the State concerned to that of the total population, provide provision contained in Article 330 of the Constitution of India read with Section 3 of the R. P. Act, 1950.
Women get one-third reservation in Gram Panchayats (meaning Village Assembly, which is a form of local village government) and Municipal elections. There is a long-term plan to extend this reservation to Parliament and State Legislative assemblies.
The Women's Reservation Bill was passed by the Rajya Sabha on 9 March 2010 by a majority vote of 186 members in favour and 1 against. It will now go to the [Lok Sabha], and if passed there, would be implemented.