February,13,2016: Condemning the prevalence of the illegal practice of “dedicating” young girls as Devadasis, the Supreme Court on Friday described the practice as an “evil” done to women, who were later even subjected to sexual exploitation and pushed into prostitution.
Taking a stern view, a Bench of Justices F.M.I. Kalifulla and S.A. Bobde directed all States and Union Territories, especially Karnataka, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, to strictly enforce the Centre’s to check “undesired and unhealthy” practice of forcing young girls to serve as Devadasis.
Urgency was shown by the Bench when Supreme Court advocate V.K. Biju, representing the Kerala-based NGO, S.L. Foundation, drew the court’s attention to the lacklustre approach of the State authorities and the police forces of Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu to the problem. He contended that neither were the police enforcing the law nor were the State governments properly utilising funds allocated for the rehabilitation of girls who were pushed into the Devadasi system.
Additional Solicitor General Pinky Anand claimed that State-level legislation such as the Karnataka Devadasis Prohibition of Dedication Act, 1982, and Maharashtra Devadasis Abolition Act, 2006, had completely abolished such practices.
Besides, Section 372 of the IPC, which prohibits selling minors for purposes of prostitution, and the Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956, also makes prostitution an offence in or in the vicinity of public places.
“The Union government has issued advisory to all States and UTs to stop illegal activities of subjecting young girls into the Devadasi system. Having regard to its laudable objectives, we refer it to all States and UTs to strictly implement the directives to check such unethical practice,” the court ordered.
The court also allowed any incidents regarding the system of Devadasi prevailing in “Beriya” and “Nat” communities to be brought to the notice of the State authorities concerned.
The apex court started hearing on the issue when apprised of how Dalit girls were dedicated as Devadasis in Uttangi Mala Durga Temple in Davanagere district of Karnataka.
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