NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court on Wednesday slapped a fine of Rs 2 lakh each on 11 states and a Union Territory for not complying with its order to provide necessary information to the Centre on steps taken by them to rehabilitate and provide shelter to widows.
The states which complied with the order but gave incomplete information will have to pay Rs 1 lakh each as fine. The fines have to be deposited with Supreme Court Legal Services Committee within four weeks, a Bench headed by Justice M B Lokur duirected.
The states that have been fined are Uttarakhand, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Gujarat, Mizoram, Assam, Himachal Pradesh, Jammu and Kashmir, Punjab, Tamil Nadu and Arunachal Pradesh, apart from UT Dadra and Nagar Haveli.
The court was hearing of a PIL filed by an NGO questioning as to how girls under 18 could be married and shunned by their families, if widowed.
The order came after the apex court was informed that the secretary of the Union ministry had addressed a letter to all the states and UTs on the issue but had not received a response from the states named.
The defaulting states had failed to give requisite information to a committee constituted by the top court to study reports furnished before the court about the condition of widows and suggest measures that could be taken to rehabilitate, compensate and make lives of the widowed women living in Vrindavan better. The bench complimented the six-member committee which submitted its report to the court.
There is no use in making “grand statements” on the issue of gender justice when the authorities in states and UTs “do not even have five minutes to respond to a communication of the Women and Child Development Ministry in this regard”, the court said.
“We are extremely pained to note from a reading of the affidavit and complete lack of a positive response from the state governments/UTs that there is very little concern, if at all, for the welfare of women... All the state governments/UTs must… respond giving full details as desired to the secretary, Ministry of Women and Child Development, within three weeks from today,” the Bench said.
The Bench made it clear that if a proper response was not given, the chief secretaries of the states/UTs concerned would be summoned to explain.
Earlier in July, the SC, while expressing concern over the plight of widows, had asked the Centre to frame a scheme to promote their remarriage and rehabilitate them by imparting skills to make them independent.
The court said it was part of its constitutional duty, and for reasons of social justice, to issue appropriate directions “intended to bring back some sunshine in the lives of the widows in Vrindavan and in ashrams elsewhere in the country.”
The Bench posted the matter for further hearing on January 30 next year.