Buoyed by the passage of the Juvenile Justice Bill which had been stuck in Parliament for one-and-a-half years, the Women and Child Development Ministry now plans to push for amendments to the NCW Act to add more teeth to the body like powers to order arrest and penalise.
The proposal for amendments to the National Commission for Women (NCW) Act, 1990, seeks to give the body powers of a civil court including the authority to order police to arrest an accused in cases of crime against women, investigate, summon and penalise, in order to enhance it to the level of the National Human Rights Commission.
However, the proposal has been in limbo for the past more than one year as it was forwarded to an inter-ministerial committee headed by Finance Minister Arun Jaitely, which dropped some of the key proposed amendments.
Among those disapproved by the committee includes the power to impose a penalty of up to Rs 5,000 if a person fails to turn up after being summoned, the clause to empower it to arrest a person and authorisation to search and seize any documents related to a case being investigated by it.
"The Commission gets thousands of complaints in a month but they only manage to look into one or two because they cannot do anything except sending them to the state concerned, which further sends them to districts," a senior ministry official said.
The Commission is considered a toothless body with only advisory powers due to which it is not taken seriously, the official said.
"It cannot even penalise those summoned fail to turn up to attend the commission's hearings. If they have the power they will be feared the same way as SC/ST Commissions are feared," he said.
For the authorities like search and seizure, the Commission will need to have a judicial magistrate-level official as its member.
"NCW cannot be given search and seizure powers as it is only given to commissions headed by judicial officers. So it may not be valid for NCW in certain cases," he said.
The Juvenile Justice (Care and Protection of Children) Bill, which provides for lowering the age for trial from 18 years in cases of heinous crime, was passed by Rajya Sabha in December amid a debate triggered by the release of the juvenile (now adult) convict in the December 16 gang-rape.