Hindustan Times (Jalandhar)

Crucial bill to give more teeth to NCW put on hold

- Moushumi Das Gupta moushumi.gupta@hindustant­imes.com

NEW DELHI: The BJP-led NDA government might have made tall claims about espousing the cause of women but it seems to be dithering when it comes to walking the talk.

The crucial bill to give more teeth to the National Commission for Women (NCW) — mandated under law to protect and promote the interest of women — which was all set to get cabinet approval shortly has been put on hold.

Reason: The gover nment wants a key provision — allowing the commission or any other gazetted officer authorised by it to enter any building/place and seize documents relating to the subject matter of the enquiry — to be dropped from the amended bill that has been pending for about a year now.

Women activists said this would result in the bill getting diluted further. Earlier, the women and child developmen­t (WCD) ministry, which is anchoring the bill, had to remove another key provision, which 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 (NHRC).

Presently, since NCW does not have the power to penalise, more often than not those summoned fail to turn up to attend the com- mission’s hearings. Sources said the bill would be again referred to the Group of Ministers (GoM) for further deliberati­ons. In April, the bill was referred to a GoM headed by finance minister Arun Jaitley.

Soon after taking charge last year WCD minister Maneka Gandhi had started the process of amending the NCW Act, 1990. The ministry had proposed that NCW chairperso­n should be either a retired judge of Supreme Court or a retired chief justice of a High Court. However, the ministry was later made to expand the eligibilit­y criteria to also include an eminent person committed to the cause of women.

The amendments also proposed giving commission powers of a civil court. While investigat­ing a matter, NCW will be empowered to summon and enforce attendance of any person involved in a particular case and examine him.

Activists said that over the years NCW had come under flak from women groups and legal experts for becoming a “toothless body” and a “parking lot for representa­tives of the ruling party”.

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