Did Ministry forget to give women's panel more teeth?
Suggestions made by state women's commission in 2006 to amend law to deal with changing scenario collect dust, while the commission itself carries on without a head
The flare in sexual crimes and the accompanying outrage has not been able to make the authorities dust off the recommendations made by the state women’s commission in 2006, for giving more muscle to the law that deals with such crimes. So obscured have they become that the state’s women and child development minister is apparently not familiar with them.
For some six years now, the recommendations conceived when Sanjeevani Kutty was the member secretary of the state women’s commission, are resting in government cabinets, while the amendments proposed to the Maharashtra State Commission for Women Act, 1993 lie dormant.
In her correspondence with the secretary of the women and child development department Vandana Krishna, Kutty stated that the state women’s commission “has been given powers of civil court... But in practice these powers are not enough, there is a need to amend the said act”.
In the same letter, dated September 25, 2006 (a copy of which MiD DAY has), Kutty further stated that in order to study the provisions of the act minutely and suggest necessary changes and rules, a retired principal secretary from the law and judiciary department, P Umarji, had been appointed by the commission.
Umarji, after studying the act and discussing it with the commission, proposed extra provisions in sections 10 and 16 of the act. Kutty, presently the additional secretary of the Union Public service Commission, requested that the law and judiciary department put these recommendations before the legislature after obtaining the cabinet’s go-ahead.
On October 3, 2006, Kutty even sent Krishna a reminder, saying the then minister for women and child development had given directions to highlight in the act the independent status of the women’s commission. After the ministry’s nod, the draft bill was to be put up before the legislature. But that’s as far as things got to.
When contacted, Varsha Gaikwad, state minister for women and child development, said, “I am not aware of the details. I will have to check with the office. Our priority is to appoint the chairman for the women’s commission (incidentally, a post that has been lying vacant for the past four years). We will look into the proposed amendments in the act.”
Kiran Moghe, state president of the All India Democratic Women’s Association, said, “Forget about the amendment being made into an act, the state government is not even interested in giving teeth to the state women’s commission, which has been headless for years. For close to two decades, we have been shouting at the top of our voice but no one can hear us. The existing law is not adequate and the criminal justice system is biased against women.”
Attempts to contact Kutty and Krishna were unsuccessful.
>> The act may be called the Maharashtra State Commission for Women (Amendment) Act 2006.
>> In section 10 of the Maharashtra State Commission for Women Act, 1993.. any proceedings before the commission shall be deemed to be judicial proceedings and the commission shall be deemed to be a court.
>> In section 16 A, the commission may receive money from any organisation or person by way of donation contribution.
>> In section 16 B, no court shall grant any injunction restraining any proceedings being or about to be taken under the provisions of this act