AFTER his snub to the Maharashtra Women’s Commission, actor Salman Khan Friday refused to appear before the National Commission for Women (NCW) in Delhi.
The NCW had issued summons to the actor for July 8 after he failed to apologise for his trivialised reference to rape. On Friday, the panel issued a statement that neither Khan nor his legal team appeared before it and that it has only “received a response from the legal team, which is currently being examined by the Commission”.
Sources said Khan’s repeated defiance has much to do with the toothless nature of the commission. For over a year now, the NCW Bill 2015, which aims to empower the panel and penalise those who fail to obey its summons, has been awaiting the PMO’s approval.
In April 2015 the Arun Jaitley-headed Group of Ministers approved the draft Bill that recommend empowering the commission to impose fines or ask a magistrate to issue arrest warrants in case anyone defies its orders or summons.
The commission was set up as a statutory body two years after the NCW Act 1990 came into force with the mandate to act on any complaint regarding violation of rights of women. Currently, the NCW can issue orders or summons to anyone but there is no way to ensure compliance if the person fails to comply or turn up before it.
The proposed Bill gives the commission the powers of a civil court with every proceeding before it deemed to be a judicial proceeding and violations of its orders being considered as contempt of court.
It states that in case of offences described in sections 175 to 180 of the Code of Criminal Procedure, pertaining to contempt of the lawful authority of public servants, the commission can “forward the case to a Magistrate having jurisdiction to try the same”. The amended Bill gives the commission the power to seek any information required by it from “any person, subject to any privilege”. It also has provisions for allowing the NCW to use the services of any state or central government officer or investigating body for its case.
“The proposed Bill will make the NCW more autonomous and powerful. Right now, even the full scope of the current Bill is not enforced due to political and non-political reasons. Once the amended Bill is passed, it will give the NCW the power to search and seize documents; many people simply refuse to produce documents that they consider to be incriminating,” NCW chief Lalitha Kumaramangalam told The Indian Express.
As per the original amendment proposed by the Women and Child Development (WCD) Ministry, the NCW was to have greater powers, bringing it on par with the National Human Rights Commission. It was to be headed by a retired judge with punitive powers to punish offenders or arrest them. The Jaitley-led GoM didn’t accept these specific recommendations. It did, however, bring about changes to do away with the current system of making political appointees to the NCW.
Under the proposed Bill, the appointment would be made by a selection committee after inviting advertisement from meritorious candidates. “After the amendments were approved by the GoM, the Bill was sent to the PMO for sanction. We haven’t heard anything on it since it,” said a WCD ministry official.