New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Friday set up a a six-member committee to ensure proper rehabilitation of Vrindavan's "hapless widows", saying they were "dealt with in a manner as if they have ceased to be entitled to a life of dignity".
The committee comprises Suneeta Dhar of NGO Jagori, Meera Khanna of Guild for Service, activist and lawyer Abha Singhal, lawyer Aparajita Singh and one nominee each from NGOs HelpAge India and Sulabh International.
The apex court asked the committee members to study the reports submitted in the Supreme Court on the condition of widows, and submit a common working plan by November 30.
A division bench of Justice Madan B. Lokur and Justice Deepak Gupta said: "One of the issues adverted to during the hearing of the petitions, but not mentioned in any of the reports, is the need to encourage widow re-marriage. This is a subject of hope that might enable our society to give up the stereotyped view of widows. We request the committee to consider this during its deliberations."
"The widows of Vrindavan (and indeed, in other ashrams) quite clearly fall in this category of a socially disadvantaged class of our society," the court said.
The court said it was a pity that these widows have been so unfortunately dealt with, as if they had ceased to be entitled to live a life of dignity, and as if they were not entitled to protection under Article 21 of the Constitution.
The Supreme Court had earlier taken note of the pathetic condition of widows after a petition was filed in 2007 to highlight how they were lodged in 'ashrams' in the Uttar Pradesh town.