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National Commission for Women: Protect and Empower Women

Published on 19 Dec 2017 by Tushar

In January 1992, the National Commission for Women (NCW), was set up as a statutory body under the National Commission for Women Act, 1990 (“the Act”)

The principle of gender equality is enshrined in the Indian Constitution and the National Commission for Women has been established as a body to ensure that the constitutional mandate is fulfilled.

  1. The Preamble promotes “Equality of status and of opportunity”;
  2. the Fundamental Rights enshrined in Part III of the Indian Constitution.;
  3. Directive Principles enshrined in Part IV of the Constitution all promote gender equality.

Right to live with dignity- most frequently complained category

The Courts have interpreted in various landmark cases that Article 21 not only includes the right to live as a mere physical right; but includes within its ambit the right to live with human dignity. In the year 2016-17, NCW received a total of 4373 complaints in this category, which was way more than complaint received in the category of dowry harassment(1752), outraging the modesty of a woman (946) and violence against women (943).

Complaints and Counseling cell

Under Section 10 of the Act, a Complaints and Counseling Cell has been created.

This is where the major work of processing all the complaints received. Complaints can be made in any form to the Commission that is,

  1. Orally,
  2. Written form

Suo Moto Powers of Commission

The Commission has powers to look into complaints (as maybe be given orally or in written) and take suo moto notice of matters relating to:-

  1. Deprivation of women's rights;
  2. non-implementation of laws enacted to provide protection to women and also to achieve the objective of equality and development;
  3. non-compliance with policy decisions, guidelines or instructions aimed at mitigating hardships and ensuring the welfare and providing relief to women, and take up the issues arising out of such matters with appropriate authorities

The commission has wide powers to make all possible attempts to secure the rights and provisions as provided under any law or Constitution. These are done as per the following ways (in the manner of a civil court)-

  1. summoning and enforcing the attendance of any person from any part of India and examining him on oath;

  2. requiring the discovery and production of any document;

  3. receiving evidence on affidavits;

  4. requisitioning any public record or copy thereof from any court or office;

  5. issuing commissions for the examination of witnesses and documents

How the Commission works

The commission has been mandated under the Act to ‘Investigate and examine all matters relating to the safeguards provided for women under the Constitution and other laws’. The complaints which may be filed before NCW may be related to but not limited to-

  1. Domestic violence,
  2. Gender discrimination,
  3. Sexual harassment at work
  4. Cruelty by husband,
  5. Refusal to register FIR by police,
  6. Rape,
  7. Bigamy
  8. Dowry,
  9. Desertion,
  10. Torture and deprivation.

Why seek help from the Commission?

  1. Investigations by the police are expedited and monitored.
  2. The matters are brought to the notice of various state authorities to facilitate action.
  3. Family disputes are resolved or compromised through counselling.
  4. As per the  Sexual Harassment at Work Place (Prevention Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013 the rules made by Central Government in December 2013 on the subject and the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013 every employer is required to provide for effective complaints procedures and remedies including the award of compensation to women victims. In sexual harassment complaints, the concerned organisation is urged to expedite cases and the disposal is monitored.
  5. For serious crimes, the Commission constitutes an Inquiry Committee which makes spot enquiries, examines witnesses, collects evidence and submits the report with recommendations. The implementation of the report is monitored by the NCW. The Commission has powers to summon the accused, witnesses and records to facilitate inquiry.

The State Commissions, the NGOs and other experts are involved in these efforts.

Cases falling under following categories are ordinarily not entertained by the Commission

  1. Complaints are illegible or vague, anonymous or pseudonymous;
  2. The complaint is that of frivolous or like nature;
  3. The Complaint relates to a civil dispute between the parties such as contractual rights obligations and the like;
  4. The Complaint relates to service matters not involving any deprivation of women's rights;
  5. The Complaint relates to labour/industrial disputes not involving any deprivation of women's rights;
  6. The matter is sub judice before a Court/Tribunal;
  7. The Commission shall not inquire into any matter which is pending before a State Commission or any other Commission duly constituted under any law for the time being in force;
  8. The Commission shall not inquire into any matter after the expiry of one year from the date on which the Act constituting violation or deprivation of Women's Rights is alleged to have been committed;
  9. Matter already decided by the Commission.

Proposed Amendments to the Act

The women and child development (WCD) minister, Maneka Gandhi has suggested that the NCW be brought to the same stature as National Human Rights Commission, for which the following amendments become crucial-

  1. It says that a committee headed by the Prime Minister should select the chairperson of the commission rather than the WCD minister doing it.
  2. 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.
  3. Currently, a person who committed to the cause of women and is nominated by the Centre is appointed as chairperson by the WCD minister.
  4. It has proposed elevation of NCW to the status of a civil court.
  5. The major empowerment for the Commission would be powers to arrest and detain as the summons of the NCW can go unheeded without strict liability for any accused.
  6. In addition to the power to arrest,It must be given the additional power to impose a penalty of up to 5,000 for every incidence of default.

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