It is a pity that these widows have been so unfortunately dealt with, as if they have ceased to be entitled to live a life of dignity, the bench observed.
In a relief to widows in Vrindavan and other ashrams in the country, the Supreme Court has decided to intervene in the matter and has formed a committee to study all the reports and provide it with a common working plan to rehabilitate the widows so as to bring them to a stage where they can live with dignity.
It is to give voice these hapless widows that it became necessary for this Court to intervene as a part of its constitutional duty and for reasons of social justice to issue appropriate directions, a bench comprising Justice Madan B Lokur and Justice Deepak Gupta observed, while posting the matter in October to follow-up on the agreed action plan submitted by the Solicitor General of India in this regard.
The committee consists of the following persons: Suneeta Dhar of NGO Jagori, Meera Khanna of Guild for Service, Abha Singhal Joshi, lawyer and activist, a nominee of HelpAge India, a nominee of Sulabh International, and Aparajita Singh, Supreme Court lawyer.
The bench was considering a PIL filed by an NGO, Environment and Consumer Protection Foundation, seeking a direction to the Union of India and the State of Uttar Pradesh to take all steps to rehabilitate the widows of Vrindavan so as to bring them to a stage where they can live with dignity. The petition widely quoted the article White Shadows of Vrindavan, written by Atul Sethi, which narrates pathetic and shocking conditions of the widows living in Vrindavan - begging in temples and then huddling together in hovels.
Earlier, the bench had imposed a fine of Rs 1 lakh on the Centre for not coming out with the agreed directions to improve the condition of destitute widows and granted it four weeks to do so.
Pursuant to direction by the court, the Solicitor-General submitted a report as an ‘Agreed Action Plan’ to improve the conditions of widows in different parts of the country. The court reproduced the said report on page 7 of the judgment, along with comments.
The court also observed that, during hearing of the petitions, it was urged that there is a need to encourage widow remarriage. “This is a subject of hope that might enable our society to give up the stereotype view of widows. We request the Committee to consider this during its deliberations,” the bench remarked.
The court also observed: “There can be little or no doubt at all that widows in some parts of the country are socially deprived and to an extent ostracised. Perhaps this is the reason why many of them choose to come to Vrindavan and other ashrams where, unfortunately, they are not treated with the dignity they deserve.”