National Commission for Women (NCW) is a statutory body set up in 1992 by an Act of Parliament, the National Commission for Women Act 1990. It aimed towards enabling women to have equal participation in all spheres of life by securing their due rights & entitlements through legislative measures, suitable policy formation, etc. It falls under the Union Ministry of Women and Child Development.
In 1974, the Committee on the Status of Women in India (CSWI), for the first time, recommended setting up the National Commission for Women to facilitate redressal of grievances and accelerate the socio-economic development of women. Successive Committees & Plans, including the National Perspective Plan for Women (1988-2000), also recommended establishing an apex body for women.
In 1990, After holding consultations with NGOs, social workers & experts, the Central government introduced the Bill in the Lok Sabha to set up a Commission for women. In August 1990, the Bill was passed and became the National Commission for Women Act, 1990. Under this Act, the first Commission was established on 31 January 1992, with Jayanti Patnaik as the first head of the commission.
Composition of NCW
NCW consists of a chairperson, five members, and a member secretary. The Central government nominates all the members of NCW, including the chairperson.
- A person committed to the cause of women is appointed as Chairperson by the Central government.
- The Central government nominates the five members from among the persons of ability, integrity, and standing who had experience in fields like law or legislation, management of industry potential of women, trade unionism, women’s voluntary organization, administration, education, health, economic development, and social welfare.
- The Central government also nominates the Member Secretary, who shall be:
- an expert in the field of management, organizational structure.
- an officer who is a member of civil service of the Union or holds a civil post under the Union with appropriate experience.
Mandate of NCW
- To review the Constitutional and legal safeguards provided to the women.
- To recommend the remedial legislative measures.
- To facilitate the redressal of grievances.
- To advise the Government on policy matters related to women.
Functions of NCW
National Commission for Women shall perform all or any of the following functions:
- It investigates and examines all the matters related to the Constitutional and other legal safeguards provided to the women.
- It makes the recommendation for the effective implementation of such safeguards to the Union or State governments.
- From time to time, the Commission reviews the existing provisions of the Constitution and other laws affecting women. It further recommends amendments to suggest remedial legislative measures to meet any inadequacies or shortcomings in such legislation.
- The Commission presented the reports to the Central government upon the work done towards these safeguards.
- It takes up the cases of violation of laws relating to the women to the appropriate authorities.
- It looks into complaints and takes suo moto notice related to the deprivation of women’s rights and the non-implementation of laws enacted to protect women.
- It takes part and advises on the planning process of the socio-economic development of women.
- It also evaluates the progress of women’s development under the Union or any State.
- It funds litigation relating to issues affecting a large body of women.
- It undertakes promotional and educational research to suggest ways to ensure the due representation of women in all spheres of life.
- The Commission conducts special studies or investigations into specific problems or situations arising out of discrimination & atrocities against women. It further identifies the constraints to suggest strategies for their removal.
Working of the Commission
The Commission process the complaints received in writing or verbally. It also takes into account the suo moto notice of cases related to women. The complaints received to the commission related to crimes against women, like domestic violence, harassment, cruelty by husband, dowry, torture, bigamy, rape, murder, desertion, refusal to register FIR, deprivation of rights, gender discrimination, sexual harassment at the workplace. The complaints are dealt with and tackled in various ways as follow:
- Family disputes are resolved or compromised through counseling.
- Disaggregated data are made available to various authorities of the state to facilitate action.
- Specific cases of police apathy are sent to the police authorities for investigation and monitored.
- For serious crimes, the Commission constitutes an Inquiry Committee to provide immediate relief and justice to victims of violence & atrocities.
Power of the Commission
National Commission for Women is empowered to regulate its procedure. While investigating into any matters or enquiring about any complaint related to women, the commission has the powers of a civil court trying a suit and in particular in respect of the following matter:
- Summoning any person from any part of the country and examining him on oath.
- Receiving evidence on affidavits.
- Requiring the discovery and production of any public record or documents.
- Requestioning the public record from any office or court.
- Issuing summons for the examination of documents and witnesses.
Reports of the Commission
NCW submit the reports to the Central government on the working of safeguards provided to women, annually or whenever it may deem fit. The Central government further places all these reports before each House of Parliament, along with a memorandum explaining the action taken on the commission’s recommendations. The memorandum also contains the reasons for the non-acceptance of any of the recommendations made by the Commission.
If any such report or any part of it relates to the State government, NCW forwards a copy of that report to the State government concerned. The State government further laid it before the State Legislature along with a memorandum explaining the action taken of the commission’s recommendations.
Parivarik Mahila Lok Adalats
National Commission for women has created an innovative component: Parvivarik Mahila Lok Adalatas, with its roots in traditional Nyaya Panchayats, for the redressal and speedy disposal of cases related to marriage and family affairs pending in various courts. It functions on the model of Lok Adalat. The Commission provides financial assistance to State Legal Service Authority or State Women Commissions to organize Parivarik Mahila Lok Adalats. Its objectives are to provide speedy and cost-free dispensation of justice to women and generate awareness among the public regarding the conciliatory mode of dispute settlement.