The NDA government which has been calling for women empowerment may end up diluting the powers of the very institution charged with protecting and promoting the interest of women if the proposed changes to NCW Act come through.
Almost a year after the women and child development (WCD) ministry drafted the amendments to the National Commission for Women (NCW) Act, 1990, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) has endorsed the recommendation of an inter-ministerial panel to drop some key provisions that could have given the NCW powers of a civil court. The ministry will soon move the cabinet to seek approval for the proposed amendments. The inter-ministerial panel headed by finance minister Arun Jaitley, where the proposal was referred twice, had rejected the clause to give the NCW power to arrest a person if he fails to turn up after being summoned. It also dropped the clause that authorised the commission to search and seize any documents related to a case being investigated.
Earlier, the WCD ministry, which is anchoring the bill, had proposed that NCW be given the power to order arrest if a person who has been summoned fails to turn up, on the lines of National Human Rights Commission.
NCW would just have the power to impose penalty of upto `5000 if a person fails to turn up after being summoned. Currently, NCW does not have the power to penalize, more often than not those summoned fail to turn up to attend the commission’s hearings. Though the commission won’t have the power to arrest, it could recommend initiation of prosecution if the inquiry finds violation of women’s rights by any public servant. In the old Act also NCW could recommend initiation of prosecution.
“The PMO has endorsed the recommendations and has sent the proposal back to the ministry which will soon move the cabinet to get the amendments approved,” said a government official.
To empower the commission, the WCD ministry has also proposed that the chairperson should be either a retired judge of the Supreme Court or a retired chief justice of the High Court. Presently, a person committed to the cause of women and nominated by the Centre can be appointed as chairperson.