SC directs K'taka to stop Devadasi ritual immediately

CJI describes age-old custom a "national shame"

SC directs K'taka to stop Devadasi ritual immediately

The Supreme Court on Thursday expressed shock over the “proposed” dedication of hundreds of dalit girls as Devadasis at Davangere district on the eve of full moon day and directed Karnataka’s chief secretary to take steps to stop it immediately.

A three-judge bench presided by Chief Justice P Sathasivam described the age-old practice as a “national shame” and issued orders to the state government after a Kerala-based NGO sought the court’s intervention on an urgent basis through a PIL.

Advocate V K Biju, appearing for petitioner S L Foundation, referred to news reports indicating that hundreds of girls would be brought for the dedication ceremony on the full moon day of Magha month, February 14, for becoming Devadasis.

He said the ceremony was proposed to be held at Uttangi Durga temple on Uchungi Hill, Davangere district. A Devadasi, dedicated to temple services for the rest of her life, is often subjected to sexual exploitation.

The bench, also comprising Justices Ranjana Prakash Desai and Ranjan Gogoi, said, “We direct the chief secretary to ensure that no such incident takes place either during the night of 13th February, 2014, or in the early hours of 14th February, 2014.”

“Chief  Secretary, Bangalore, State of Karnataka, is directed to take all preventive measures in respect of a programme to be held on early hours of 14 th February, 2014, in Uttangi Mala Durga Temple at Harappanahalli Taluk of Davangere District, Karnataka, wherein dalit girl children will be dedicated as Devadasis,” the bench added.

While ordering the registry to communicate the court’s order immediately to the chief secretary, the bench also issued notices to the Centre, National Commission for Women (NCW) and states of Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu where the practice was contended to be still prevalent.

The petition said that though Karnataka and Maharashtra had passed separate legislations abolishing the ceremony, the practice still continued at several places as per the NCW report which claimed that 2.5 lakh dalit girls were dedicated to temples in Karnataka-Maharashtra border.

“Even though outlawed, the Devadasi system persists, forcing women into a life time of sexual exploitation,” it said, quoting news reports about another proposed ceremony to be held at Thimilapura temple at Halya near Hospet in north Karnataka.

The petitioner also sought immediate direction to the Centre and states to take steps to stop the practice and rehabilitate the victims.

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