SC directs states to put an end to Devadasi system

Last Updated 12 February 2016, 18:59 IST

The Supreme Court on Friday directed Karnataka, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and other states and Union Territories (UT) to implement strictly the Centre’s advisory to check “undesired and unhealthy” practice of forcing young girls to serve as “Devadasis”.

A bench of Justices F M I Kalifullah and S A Bobde took on record the advisory sent by the Home Ministry to all state governments on December 22 and disposed of a PIL filed by a Kerala-based NGO S L Foundation. A “Devadasi”, dedicated to temple services for rest of her life, is often put to sexual exploitation.

Additional Solicitor General Pinky Anand submitted that state-level legislations like the Karnataka Devadasis Prohibition of Dedication Act, 1982 and Maharashtra Devadasis Abolition Act, 2006 have completely abolished such practices.

The practice of “Devadasi system” in any form is in total contravention of the provisions under Section 370 and 370 A of the Indian Penal Code as amended through the Criminal Law Amendment Act, 2013. 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 vicinity of public places. 

Noticing the statutory mechanism having been in place, the bench said, “The Union government has issued advisory to all states and UTs to stop illegal activities of subjecting young girls into 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, however, allowed NGO counsel V K Biju to approach the respective state governments if it comes across about any event relating to exploitation of young girls through the ill practice.

Another counsel, who pointed out the system of Devadasi, prevailing in “beriya” and “nat” communities, was also permitted by the court to bring any such incident into the notice of the state government.

Following citation of news report, the Supreme Court had on February 13, 2014 directed the Karnataka chief secretary to take all preventive measures in Uttangi Mala Durga Temple at Harappanahalli Taluk of Devanageri District, wherein Dalit girl children were dedicated as Devadasis.
DH News Service

(Published 12 February 2016, 18:59 IST)

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