There is no use in making “grand statements” on the issue of gender justice when the authorities in states and union territories do not even have five minutes to respond to a communication of the Women and Child Development Ministry in this regard, the Supreme Court said on Wednesday. The scathing remarks came from the “extremely pained” top court which slapped a cost of Rs two lakh each on 12 states and union territories (UTs) for showing complete lack of concern for the welfare of women.
Besides, the apex court also directed the states and UTs, which have given incomplete response to the secretary of Ministry, to deposit Rs one lakh each with the Supreme Court Legal Services Committee within four weeks.
“There is no use in making grand statements and submissions in favour of gender justice when the state governments and the government of UTs do not even have five minutes time to respond to the Ministry of Women and Child Development for the sake of women,” a bench of Justices Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta said.
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 12 states and UTs, including Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Assam Uttrakhand, Karnataka, Punjab and Dadra and Nagar Haveli, have not bothered to respond to it.
The bench also noted that the remaining states and UTs had given an incomplete response to the communication.
“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 of the states/UTs,” the bench said.
“All the state governments/UTs must, if they have any concern for the welfare of women of their states/UTs, respond giving full details as desired to the secretary, Ministry of Women and Child Development, within three weeks from today,” it directed.
The bench, while hoping that the states and UTs would “at least show some degree of sensitivity” to women’s welfare, asked the secretary to compile the information and place it on affidavit before the court.
“We make it clear that in case adequate responses are not given to the Secretary, Ministry of Women and Child Development, we will be constrained to require the presence of the Chief Secretary in the states/UTs in this court to explain why they have not responded and why they do not care for the women of their states/UTs,” it said.
The bench also complimented the six-member committee, set up by it to study reports furnished before the court about the condition of widows and come up with a common working plan, for the work done by them in the matter.
The committee submitted its report in the court, which said that it should be given to the parties, including the counsel for National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) and the National Commission for Women, for implementation.
Meanwhile, the counsel representing the NALSA told the bench that a scheme ‘Ensuring Access to Justice for Widows Living in Shelter Homes’ has been prepared and they would serve it to the Centre and other parties for their comments.
The bench posted the matter for further hearing on January 30 next year.
The apex court had earlier taken note of the “pathetic” condition of widows after a plea was filed in 2007 highlighting how they lived in welfare homes in Vrindavan.
It had referred to various reports filed by the NALSA, District Legal Services Authority and National Commission for Women on the condition of shelter homes for widows in Vrindavan.
One of the reports had said that there was lack of proper toilets and bathrooms in the shelter homes, besides poor water and electricity facilities.