In a stinging remark, the Supreme Court today said when it passes some directions, it is claimed that the courts are “trying to run the government”, which does not want to act. “You (government) do not want to do it and when we say anything, you say that court is trying to run the government,” a bench comprising Justices Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta said, while castigating the government for not caring about the destitute widows in the country.
The apex court also imposed a cost of Rs one lakh on the government for not coming out with the agreed directions to improve the condition of destitute widows, despite its direction and granted it four weeks to do so. “You do not care about the widows of India. You file an affidavit and say you are not concerned with the widows of India. You have done nothing… This is complete helplessness. The government does not want to do anything,” the bench said.
The apex court had earlier asked the Centre to convene a meeting to consider suggestions mooted by the National Commission for Women (NCW) and formulate directions to improve the condition of widows in the country. The counsel for Ministry of Women and Child Development had intimated the court that a meeting was scheduled on April 12 and 13 to consider the suggestions of the NCW and experts.
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During the hearing today, the bench asked the Centre’s counsel why this meeting was not convened despite an assurance given to the court. “You had told us about April 12 and 13 but there was no meeting and now you are giving explanations. Inspite of what was recorded, nothing has been done. You have not done anything,” the bench said, adding “we cannot do anything, they are so stubborn”.
When the counsel sought time to come back with directions, the bench said, “we will grant you time subject to cost of Rs one lakh”. At the last date of hearing, the court had said the government and other stakeholders should sit together and come out with a list of “agreed directions” which may be passed by it today.
The counsel for the ministry had told the court that it would be appropriate “if agreed directions are formulated and issued, so that immediate steps are taken to improve the conditions of widows”. The apex court had taken note of situation of widows after a petition was filed in 2007 portraying their pathetic condition in the welfare homes at the holy city of Vrindavan in Uttar Pradesh.
The apex court had earlier referred to various reports filed by the National Legal Services Authority, the District Legal Services Authority and the NCW 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.
The court was hearing the pleas seeking directions to the Centre and the state government to provide shelter and other necessary facilities to the widows in Vrindavan who have been abandoned by their family members. The apex court had also appointed a seven-member panel to collect data on their socio-economic conditions. A majority of the 1,000-odd widows interviewed earlier in Vrindavan by the NCW have children who do not care for them.
In a report filed in the apex court, the statutory women’s body had recommended fixing of liability on the children under the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act, 2007. It had said an estimated 5,000-10,000 widows were living like beggars in ashrams dotting the two holy cities of Mathura and Vrindavan.