To de-politicise the National Commission for Women (NCW) and make it more powerful, the government has proposed that only retired judges from the Supreme Court and high courts be its chairpersons. They will be given powers to summon violators of women rights and penalise them.
In a slew of amendments to the NCW Act, the women and child development (WCD) ministry has proposed that a committee headed by the Prime Minister should select the chairperson of the commission. Under the existing NCW Act, this discretion lies with the WCD minister.
The ministry has proposed that only a retired judge of the Supreme Court or a retired chief justice of the high court can be appointed as chairpersons. Presently, a person committed to the cause of women and nominated by the Centre can be appointed as chairperson by the WCD minister.
“A cabinet note proposing the changes has been moved for inter-ministerial consultations,” said a government official.
The amendments also propose giving the commission powers of a civil court. While investigating a matter NCW will be empowered to summon and enforce the attendance of any person involved in a particular case and examine him.
“The commission will be given the power to order arrest, 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.
Soon after taking charge, WCD minister Maneka Gandhi had started the process of empowering the NCW and giving it power at par with the National Human Rights Commission.
Mandated under law to protect and promote the interest of women, over the years NCW had received flak from women’s groups and legal experts for becoming a “toothless body” and a “parking lot for representatives of the ruling party.”