National Commission For Women : Its Role & Responsibility

Gaurav Mohunta, Advocate
Punjab & Haryana High Court

Date : 19/04/2019

National Commission For Women: Its Role & Responsibility


"It is perceived that the nonpareil methodology to explore about a civilization, culture and society is to try and understand more and more about its women."

The word "Women" comes from the union of two words i.e. "Wo" which means "from" and Men, meaning thereby the women itself came from Men, but the male accorded himself to be superior and treated women as inferior in all walks of life. Ever since the history of India, the women in India have been striving to emulate with their male counterparts in what has been known as a conventional patriarchal society. The women always encountered rigid social ideology and expectations which lasted well into the mid-twentieth century. Most women didn't have the opportunity to overcome this barrage of man-made obstacles and climb to the top. It thus became imperative to take certain ameliorative steps in order to improve the condition of women in this orthodox society.


Indian women have fought against the patriarchal Indian society and triumphed at many levels despite cases of rape, dowry deaths, female infanticide, sexual harassment at workplaces, female illiteracy, and similar problems are being rampant in Indian society. It was in this backdrop that the Committee on the Status of Women in India (hereinafter referred to as CSWI) led to the establishment of the National Commission for Women to fulfill the surveillance functions so as to facilitate redressal of grievances and to accelerate the socio-economic development of women. Thus, in light of the recommendations by CSWI and in order to uphold the mandate of the Constitution, in January 1992, the National Commission for Women (NCW), was set up as a statutory body under the National Commission for Women Act, 1990 (Act No. 20 of 1990 of Government of India) to carry out the mandate set out by the Act as well as CSWI.[1] Thereafter, the corresponding regulations i.e. "The National Commission for Women (Procedure) Regulations, 2005" were enacted which have added to its effectiveness.


The National Commission for Women Act, 1990 constituted the National Commission for Women as a statutory body. The first Commission was constituted on 31st January, 1992 and Mrs. Jayanti Patnaik was appointed as the Chairperson of the National Commission for Women. Section 3 of the Act enables the Central Government for the constitution of the Commission. It consists of one Chairperson, who is committed to the cause of women, five members from diverse fields and a member secretary who shall be an expert in the fields of management, organizational structure, sociological movement or a member of civil service of the Union. All the members of the Commission are nominated by the Central Government. Further, Section 4 of the Act lays down the term of office and conditions of service.


Keeping in view the mandate of the Act and regulations, the Commission has taken initiatives which brought transition in the functioning of the Commission. The NCW brought awareness amongst the women and equipped them with knowledge of their legal rights with a capacity to use these rights. One such event was legal awareness camp on "Reproductive Health Rights, Foeticide, Infanticide, PC & PNDT Act, 1994 and The Medical Termination of Pregnancy Act" held on 21-22nd September, 2012. The Commission has assisted women in redressal of their grievances through pre-litigation services involving efficacious delivery of justice to them by organizing Parivarik Mahila Lok Adalats (PMLA) in different parts of the country and free legal aid which is given through District Legal Services Authority (DLSA). Moreover, the Commission constantly reviews existing provisions of the Constitution and other laws relating to women and recommends periodic amendments thereto. The Commission reviewed laws such as Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961, PNDT Act, 1994, Indian Penal Code, 1860 and the National Commission for Women Act, 1990 to make them more stringent and effective. Apart, NCW organizes promotional activities from time to time to stimulate women and gather information about their status and recommend paradigm shift in their empowerment.

NCW through its various cells investigates and examines all matters relating to safeguards provided for women and devises a comprehensive strategy to tackle cases of violation of the fundamental rights of women under the Constitution and other laws. The Commission in numerous cases has taken cognizance of complaints made by vulnerable section of women and taken suo moto notice of such matters. Also, NCW delves for deprivation of women's rights. The Commission has also taken cognizance of incidents relating to commission of heinous crimes against women. One of such incident was the Delhi gang rape incident which brought special attention nationwide. In this regard, the Commission with the support of members of civil society appealed the Government to amend the existing sexual assault laws. It was in this backdrop that the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013 was promulgated. Furthermore, NCW has conducted special studies and investigations into specific problems & situations arising out of discrimination and atrocities against women. It also undertakes promotional and educational research so as to suggest ways of ensuring due representation of women in all spheres and identify factors responsible for impeding their advancement. A two-day National Consultation event was organized on 27th and 28th of February, 2014 at Jaipur, Rajasthan on "Prohibition of Atrocities against Women by Dehumanizing and Stigmatizing them in public" to finalize the NCW Draft Model Central Legislation.

The Commission has published reports, magazines and articles covering contemporary issues of women. One such publication is "Rashtra Mahila". Moreover, it advises on the planning process of socioeconomic development of women and evaluates the progress of development of women under the Union and States.

The Commission conducts inspection of jails, remand home, women's institution or other place of custody where they are kept as prisoners or otherwise & pursue with the concerned authorities for remedial action, if found necessary. Taking cognizance of reports in the media regarding gross violation of the rights of women living in Swadhar Grehs in the country, the Commission initiated inspection of 12 such homes in the country on a pilot basis to ascertain the factual status of these homes. In an attempt to make these inspections more meaningful and with a view to cover all Swadhar Grehs in India, the Commission organized a daylong consultation with academia, NGOs and Government Departments on 13.09.2018. Lastly, the Commission endeavors to render financial assistance to women institutions, NGOs and organizations working for the upliftment of women.


The power and responsibilities of the chairperson, members and member secretary are prescribed under Chapter IV of The National Commission for Women (Procedure) Regulations, 2005. Apart, the Commission has devised an effective and expeditious mechanism in the form of NCW Cells for tackling issues pertaining to women in need of aid. They are:

1. Complaints & Investigation Cell:

It processes the complaints received orally or in writing or online via official website of the National Commission for Women. Further it deals with the complaints received from all over the country including those relating to deprivation of rights of women and involving injustice to women. It takes suo motu cognizance of incidents relating to commission of heinous crimes such as acid attack, sexual assault & rape against women under Section 10 of the Act of 1990.

2. Legal Cell:

It is responsible to consider in a wider perspective the suggestions given by expert groups, if any, for revision or amendment in laws pertaining to women with a view to coordinate and harmonise them in the existing climate of economic liberalization.

3. Policy Monitoring & Research Cell:

The PMR Cell is responsible to conduct special studies or investigations into specific problems or situations arising out of discrimination and atrocities against women. Also, to undertake promotional and educational research in order to ensure due representation of women in all walks of life.

4. Non-Resident Indians Cell:

Since National Commission for Woman has been nominated as the Coordinating agency at the National level for dealing with issues pertaining NRI marriages by the Govt. of India therefore, it is obligated to render all possible assistance to women who are deserted by their Overseas Indian husbands.

5. North East Cell:

It is responsible to address problems faced by North East women and take special steps for their development and empowerment. Furthermore, NE Cell has been created to emphasize on problems/challenges faced by women of North East and also to intervene with the State and Central Governments whenever required.


The Commission has intervened in numerous court cases, where women rights have been transgressed. Few of the more prominent ones are:

1. Bhateri Gang Rape Case, Rajasthan

The Commission suo moto took up the case of the victim and extended its full support in going for appeal and also providing security to the victim and appointment of a special public prosecutor to argue her case. The victim was a "Sathin" associated with WDP in Rajasthan who was raped in retaliation for her intervention in a child marriage in September 22, 1992.

2. Commutation of Death Penalty (Ramshree's Case)

Due to the timely intervention of the National Commission for Women in the Honble Supreme Court, the order of death sentence was temporarily stayed and the Hon'ble Court, later on commuted the death sentence into life imprisonment.

3. Obscenity Cases

The Hon'ble High Court of Delhi put an injunction on the launching of 21+ adult channel. The NCW approached the Hon'ble High Court of Delhi against Star TV, Zee TV, etc for showing obscene pictures on television and other media.

4. Against out dated Customs & Traditions Maimon Baskari's Nuh Haryana Case

The NCW took up the case of Ms. Maimon Baskari who was allegedly a victim of torture and rape for marrying a person of her choice. The Honble Supreme Court has united the couple.


"There is no tool for development more effective than the empowerment of women."

...Kofi Annan

The desideratum for a nationwide body to raise women issues and to take constructive measures at law and policy making levels with a view to ensure governmental accountability towards issues concerning women was the raison detre for the demand for a National Commission for Women. For the women fraternity, it is a mechanism that acts as a conduit between them and the government so as to effectively articulate their voice and opinions which is strongly feminist. The Government of India took the initiative to establish this Commission by keeping in view the provisions of the Constitution of India and recommendations by UN Commission on Status of Women so as to invigorate the women on addressing predicaments, repressions and other types of violence they use to encounter. The National Commission for Women also takes the initiatives for overall progression of womens community throughout the country.

[1] National-Commission-For-Women.html accessed on 12th March, 2019 at 9:34 PM.

[2] inquiries accessed on 15th March, 2019 at 4:40PM.

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