As India traditionally being a patriarchal society, women are often looked down upon. Women neither belong to the minority class nor the backward class. There was a need with the passage of time for the formation of a statutory body for which a bill was introduced in the Parliament, namely the National Commission for Women Bill 1990, which resulted in the formation of the National Commission for Women.
Formation of the National Commission for Women
The National Commission for Women was formed in 1992 under the National Commission for Women Act 1990 (Act No. 20).
Extra Info: 1st chairperson of the National Commission for Women was Mrs Jayanti Pattnaik, and the current chairperson is Mrs Rekha Sharma, who took charge on 07.08.2018. Alok Rawat was the first male member of the commission.
Composition of National Commission for Women
- Section 3 of the National Commission for Women Act states the Constitution of the commission.
- The commission shall consist of a chairperson.
- The commission shall also consist of five members having expertise in law and issues related to women.
- There shall be a member secretary who must be a central gazetted officer having management and sociological expertise.
The National Commission for Women submits all its reports to the Central Government, which is laid before the Parliament during sessions.
Functions of the National Commission for Women
The mandate (functions) of the National Commission for Women is defined in Section 10 of the National Commission for Women Act which is as follows:
1. Inquiry, Investigation and Examination: Examine and investigate the matters related to safeguards of women according to the Constitution and other laws which are in force.
2. Report Presentation: Present the annual report to the Central Government.
3. Recommendation: Make such recommendations in the reports to the Union as well State regarding improving the conditions of the women.
4. Review: Review different laws related to women and suggest amendments to them.
5. Violation Cases: Takes up violation cases pertaining to the provisions of the Constitution and other laws related to women.
6. Suo-Moto Notice: Takes suo-moto notice of matters pertaining to deprivation of women’s rights, non-implementation of laws, non-compliance policy decisions related to women etc.
7. Research: Undertake promotional and educational research to find ways to represent women in all spheres of life and improve their efficiency.
8. Planning: Participate in the process of planning related to the socio-economic development of women.
9. Progress Evaluation: Evaluate the progress related to the development of women in the State and the Union.
10. Inspection: Inspect the jail, remand homes etc., where women are kept as prisoners.
11. Funding: Litigations relating to funds affecting women’s bodies.
12. Counselling & Complaint Functions: This is considered to be the vital function of the commission. It processes the complaints referred to it in written, oral or suo-moto according to section 10 of the National Commission for Women Act, 1990. Various complaints are entertained by the commission, such as domestic violence, refusal to register FIR, rape, cruelty by husband and family members, sexual harassment at the workplace etc.
Note: The commission will not entertain complaint if any case relating to the complaint is pending in any court inside the Indian territory.
13. Legal Functions: As mentioned earlier in the commission’s mandate, the commission has to perform legal research pertaining to women’s laws and make such recommendations to the government concerning amendments, repealing of obsolete/outdated laws and implementation of the same.
14. Research Functions: Looks into the problems faced by women in current situations and how to improve their conditions. Responsible for conducting seminars, public hearings etc.
List of Women Favourable Laws
- The Immoral Traffic Prevention Act, 1956
- The Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961
- The Indecent Representation of Women (Prohibition) Act, 1986
- The Commission of Sati Prevention Act, 1987
- Protection of Women from Domestic Violence Act, 2005
- The Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace Act, 2013
- The Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013
Note: All the State legislatures have passed Acts about the Women Commission, and all the states, including the Union Territories of India, have instituted their respective Women State Commissions.
Powers of the National Commission for Women
During the investigation of any matter before it, National Commission for Women has all the powers of a civil court, in particular in the following matters:
- Summoning the attendance of any person and examining him.
- Receiving evidence on affidavits.
- Requiring the discovery and production of any document.
- Requisitioning any record from public office or court.
- Issuing commissions for the examination of witnesses and documents.
- Any other matter which may be prescribed.
Shortcomings/Disadvantages of the Women Commission
- The selection of members is vested in the Union Government.
- No specific legislative powers. It only reports to the government, which is not binding either on the State or on the Union.
- Relies entirely on the Union Government for financial assistance.
- Not a judicial body.
Bhabani Prasad Jena vs Convenor Secretary, Orissa State Commission for Women & Anr. 2010 Supreme Court.
Held: No power or authority has been given to the State Commission to adjudicate or determine the rights of the parties. The State Commission is not a tribunal discharging the functions of a judicial character or a court.
After establishing the Women Commission, it was flooded with complaints, out of which ninety percent turned out to be hoaxes. Women are misusing the legal provisions by filing false and baseless complaints. They threaten men by using such tools. Therefore, the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India had said no immediate arrests to be made in the case of 498A without verifying allegations.
Recently there is a demand for the establishment of the National Commission for Men. If not, the law will get misused to a great extent, society will be affected at large and will be violating the provisions of Article 14 of the Indian Constitution.
NCW Important Points
The National Commission for Women (NCW) was set up under the National Commission for Women Act, 1990, as a statutory body in January 1992. The Commission was set up to review women’s legal and constitutional safeguards, recommend remedies, facilitate grievance redressal, and advise the Government on all policy matters related to women.
The National Commission for Women considers cases related to sexual violence, dowry harassment, abortion due to gender revelation, bigamy, prostitution, trafficking of women, cyber crime against women, cruelty, domestic violence and many other offences related to women.
NCW in serious offences can also take complaints anonymously without revealing the identity of the victim. Also, the Commission can set up its inquiry committee for serious offences having all the powers as a civil court, like conducting an on-spot inquiry, collecting evidence, examining witnesses or summon to accused and police records.
The National Commission for Women can receive suo moto notices, either oral or written and then transfer the complaints to police in offences that are not that serious. The Commission can ask the police to expedite the matter.
The victim can call 011-26944805 in case if assistance is needed from the National Commission of Women. The National Commission for Women (NCW) has also launched a helpline number 0721-7735372 to send a WhatsApp message in case assistance is needed to women facing domestic violence.
The National Commission for Women took significant initiatives like creating the Parivarik Mahila Lok Adalat to protect women’s rights. It also reviewed and evaluated laws concerning the Indian Penal Code, 1860; the Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961; the Pre-Conception & Pre-Natal Diagnostic Techniques Act, 1994; etc. They have also organised awareness programs from time to time.
Official NCW website: http://ncw.nic.in/
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