SC tells Karnataka to check Devadasi practice

Last Updated: Thu, Feb 13, 2014 13:30 hrs

New Delhi, Feb 13 (IANS) The Supreme Court Thursday directed Karnataka's chief secretary to ensure that no girls are offered Thursday night or Friday as devotees of temples in the "Devdasi" practice.

A bench of Chief Justice P. Sathasivam, Justice Ranjana Prakash Desai and Justice Ranjan Gogoi directed the official to take all "preventive measure in the conduct of the programmes to be held in the early hours of Feb 14, where girls are being dedicated as devotees to the temple (Uttangi Mala Durga Temple)".

"We also direct the chief secretary (to ensure) that no such incident (of dedicating girls as devotees to temples) takes place either on Feb 13 or Feb 14."

The court issued notice to the central and Karnataka, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu governments and the National Commission for Women (NCW) returnable in four weeks.

The petitioner, S.L Foundation, had urged the court to direct the central and Karnataka governments to take urgent steps for restraining the devadasis' dedication that was going to be held on the midnight of Feb 13 at Uttangi Mala Durga Temple in the state's Devanagar district as it was against the provision of the constitution.

The court was told that the activity was also against the Karnataka Devadasis Prohibition of Dedication Act, 1982, and conflicts with the rights of juvenile.

As counsel V.K. Biju, appearing for the Foundation, mentioned the matter before the court, the chief justice observed: "Such an important matter and you come at such a belated stage?"

The PIL referred to the media reports which said that NCW has found that there were 2.5 lakh Dalit girls dedicated to temples in the Karnataka-Maharashtra border region. The PIL said that the reports also said that a 1993-94 survey found that there were 22,873 devadasis spread over ten districts and another survey in 2007 had put this number at 30,000 in 14 districts.

Describing the practice as a national shame, the PIL said that "right to live" guaranteed under the constitution is a "right to live with dignity and decency".

The NGO has sought direction to the central government to frame a law and guidelines to prohibit the practice of devadasis dedication of girls in any part of the country.

Seeking the rehabilitation of the girls who had become the victim of evil practice, the petitioner has also sought directions to the NCW to take steps for stopping reprehensible practice in the country and submit a detailed report to the court.

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