On one hand, the #MeToo movement is going on loudly in India and the victims of sexual harassment are releasing their statements. Because of this, MJ Akbar, who was the Union Minister of State for Foreign Affairs in the Modi Government, had to resign from his post. But there is an important and thinkable point about NCW, India’s largest body of women’s security affairs, is functioning without a single member. National Commission for women has five members posts and at this time all the posts are vacant. The last member of the commission was Alok Rawat, who was retired on October 19. At present, the Commission has only its chairperson, Rekha Sharma, who is handling all the workload now. No new appointments have been made since the expiry of the three-year term of any of the previous members.
Two of the five posts of the National Commission for Women are reserved for the Scheduled Caste (SC) and the Scheduled Tribes (ST) Women’s Candidates. This has been done so that the Commission has a fair representation for the people of the backward communities and their complaints will be heard. However, this post is vacant since April 2015.
From September 2016 after retiring from previous SC and ST members Shamina Shafiq and Laldingliani Sailo. The term of another member Sushma Sahu was over in August. In the same month, after the end of the term of another member, Rekha Sharma, was made the chairperson of the National Commission for Women. Rekha Sharma took over as the NCW chairperson once her term as member got over in the same month.
Alok Rawat, who was appointed by the present government is the first-ever male member who was appointed in the National Commission for women.
In addition to handling regular cases of domestic violence and other grievances, during the #Metoo movement, on the increase of complaints of sexual harassment in the last month, NCW has recently announced a dedicated email ID (ncw.metoo @ gmail.com). Laws made on sexual harassment of women have also been set to consult with legal experts and stakeholders of civil society on possible legislative amendments to the Sexual Harassment of Women at Workplace (Prevention, Prohibition and Redressal) Act, 2013.
When asked about the vacant posts, NCW Chairperson, Rekha Sharma quotes to Indian Express, “The burden of work has increased on us, especially because all the five posts are vacant but we are handling it in some way. The issue of appointments is handled by the Prime Minister’s Office and the Ministry of Women and Child Development. We were told recently that the selection process for all the five members is almost complete. “
Officials of the ministry said besides the NCW appointments pending since 2015, the crucial National Commission for Women draft Bill is pending with PMO since April 2015 while ministers led by Arun Jaitley approved the draft Bill to strengthen the Commission. If this Bill is passed then the Commission will get the powers of the Civil Court, which will get the right to order the arrest warrant from a magistrate for imposing penalties on criminals, demand of documents and violation of the order. The GoM had recommended doing away with the existing system of making political appointments to the NCW. The Bill is yet to be tabled before Parliament.