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Time to give more teeth to spineless National Commission for Women

By Reetu

NCW chief Mamta Sharma. (PTI photo)
The National Commission for Women (NCW) is responsible for and answerable to 50 per cent of the Indian population. But the ground reality is that its role is limited merely to reactive interventions. A high-level committee on status of women had earlier said, "Role of the National Commission for Women must go beyond reactive interventions to fulfil the proactive mandate of studying, recommending and influencing policies, laws, programmes and budgets to ensure full benefits to the stakeholders."

In a bid to ensure more transparency in the functioning of the NCW and keep it free from political interferences, the government has made proposals to amend the NCW Act.

Thus, to bring about some structural changes in the body and to ensure more transparency in the functioning of the NCW, few amendments have been proposed by the Narendra Modi Government to the NCW Act to make the spineless body better so that it can do some greater good of women.

What is NCW Act?

In January 1992, the National Commission for Women (NCW) was set up as a statutory body under the National Commission for Women Act, 1990 to review the constitutional and legal safeguards for women; recommend remedial legislative measures, facilitate redressal of grievances and advise the Government on all policy matters affecting women.

NCW, so far a toothless body

The NCW was constituted by the PV Narshima Rao Government and is supposed to address women's issues in the country. The body has so far done no good to the society and has proved itself to be of no worth, thus inviting criticism from all quarters.

A TOI report said, "A Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative (CHRI) analysis of reported rape cases between 2001 and 2013 shows 2,64,130 rapes were reported in 28 states during the 13-year period - an average of almost 56 incidents of rape per day. In the seven UTs, the average is almost two rapes per day. However, Delhi alone accounted for 8,060 reported incidents during this period. While 16,075 cases of rape were reported in 2001 across all states and UTs, in 2013, the figure stood at 33,707 - indicating an increase of 52.30%."

With the rising crime against women in our country, the spineless body has failed to break the ice and has not done anything in this regard.

The proposed amendments to NCW Act

The women and child development (WCD) minister, Maneka Gandhi wants to give teeth to the commission and make it at par with the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and thus has proposed various amendments to the NCW Act which are as follows:

  • It says that a committee headed by the Prime Minister should select the chairperson of the commission rather than the WCD minister doing it.
  • Only a retired judge of the Supreme Court or a retired chief justice of the High Court should be appointed as chairpersons of the NCW.
  • Currently, a person who committed to the cause of women and is nominated by the Centre is appointed as chairperson by the WCD minister.
  • It has proposed elevation of NCW to the status of a civil court and says that its jurisdiction should also cover Jammu and Kashmir.
  • After getting such status, every proceeding before the commission will get the status of a judicial proceeding. This will also empower the body to issue arrest warrants if the summons are not heeded to.
  • "The commission will be given the power to order arrest and if a person who has been summoned fails to turn up. It can also impose a penalty of up to 5,000 for every incidence of default," said a source.
  • Presently, since the NCW does not have the power to penalize, more often than not, those summoned fail to turn up to attend the commission's hearings.

To de-politicise the NCW and to make it more powerful, the above moves are being made so that they can address the real cause and help to solve them. The commission has not really been active in taking up matters, rather they choose arbitrary issues like the recent Preity Zinta-Ness Wadia controversy and just do the lip service by saying that strict action must be taken against the accused. It never raised its voice on serious matters like women's safety too. Thus, the structure needs an overhaul so that it can do the needful and is more help in reducing the surging crimes against women.

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