House panel seeks more powers for NCW to ensure accountability

By, New Delhi
Aug 11, 2023 12:10 AM IST

Stressing an urgent need to review the present Act of NCW, a parliamentary panel has recommended that the commission be equipped with more powers through suitable amendments.

Stressing an urgent need to review the present Act of the National Commission for Women (NCW), a parliamentary panel has recommended that the commission be equipped with more powers through suitable amendments.

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The committee for empowerment of women, headed by BJP MP Heena Vijaykumar Gavit, submitted its eighth report titled ‘Working of the national commission for women and state commissions for women’ in the Lok Sabha on Thursday.

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According to the report, considering the constantly changing socio-economic environment and technological advancement, the committee recommended that the commission should be equipped with more powers by making suitable amendments in the relevant sections of its existing Act to “deal effectively in bringing women on a par with their male counterparts in every aspect of socio-economic development in the country”.

Under section 10 of the NCW Act, 1990, the commission can give recommendations and suggestions for reviewing the existing laws and policies and take suo motu cognizance of cases on non-compliance with policy decisions, and guidelines or instructions intended to empower women in the country. However, there is no provision for a penalty or punishment for the respondent who does not appear even after summons are sent by the NCW.

“The committee found during their examination of the subject that there exists an impending and urgent need for reviewing the parent Act by making it more strong, independent and effective,” the committee said.

The committee recommended that while considering amendments to the Act, the commission may be empowered with additional powers to ensure a certain degree of accountability of the police towards them to implement their directions and recommend a “suitable penalty” in case of wilful disobedience of summons, etc in view of the record of non-cooperation of police officials in a variety of cases dealt with or recommended by the commission.

The recommendations come at a time when the NCW has received public backlash for not taking any concrete action despite receiving complaints regarding cases of sexual violence against women in Manipur.

According to the report, the committee was informed that the commission, in 2014, sent a proposal to the Union ministry of women and child development (WCD) for making some amendments to its 1990 Act. However, the proposals are “still at proposal stage only and there has been no forward movement since 2015 in this regard”, the report said.

Therefore, the committee recommended that the NCW should chalk out fresh proposals for amendments to its 1990 Act, and submit the same to the ministry which should finalise these in a time-bound manner for introducing an amendment Bill in Parliament.

Expressing concern over no time frame being followed for implementation of the NCW’s recommendations in various fields, the committee recommended that a mechanism be devised within the Ministry of Women and Child Development or the Ministry of Law and Justice or other concerned ministries for adhering to certain timelines.

Flagging that the commission could only close 114,903 of the 184,297 complaints received by it during the period from 2015-16 to 2022-23, the committee recommended that the ministries look into the procedures being adopted.

The House panel also flagged that many states such as Bihar and Madhya Pradesh still do not have their state commissions for women.

“In other states or Union territories where commissions have been established, these are not fully functional either due to non-appointment of chairpersons and members or lack of allocation of funds.”

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    Fareeha Iftikhar is a Special Correspondent with the national political bureau of the Hindustan Times. She tracks the education ministry, and covers the beat at the national level for the newspaper. She also writes on issues related to gender, human rights and different policy matters.

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