The Gujarat snooping row and the sexual harassment case allegedly involving Tehelka founder Tarun Tejpal has brought into focus concerns about the independence and effectiveness of the National Commission for Women (NCW) yet again.
Set-up in 1992 following an Act of Parliament, the NCW functions under the women and child development ministry. And over the years, the inclusion of representatives of the ruling party has laid it open to criticism.
The Congress-BJP slanging match over the snooping row has brought the appointment issue in focus again. "When you appoint a person from a particular party it will raise questions about the impartial examination of a case," said retired Delhi high court judge, Justice Usha Mehra.
"Not only does the selection procedure need to be made more stringent, it should also be given more powers. The NCW should have the power to get its directions and notices enforced," added SC advocate Kirti Singh.
The contradictory notes the members often strike has also eroded the credibility of the organisation. On Wednesday, NCW member Nirmala Samant Prabhavalkar said a notice has been sent to the Gujarat government, seeking explanation on whether due process was followed while putting the girl under surveillance.
Hours later, NCW chief Mamta Sharma, who is contesting the assembly elections in Rajasthan as a Congress candidate, said the commission will withdraw the notice after the girl’s father had sent a letter to it. In the evening she backtracked.
"How can the NCW keep changing its stand on such a sensitive matter?" said Ranjana Kumari, president, Women's Power Connect, a coalition of women organisations.
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