The Supreme Court on Thursday directed Karnataka to prevent girls from being dedicated as devadasis at a ceremony in the Uttangi Mala Durga temple in Devanagar district in the early hours of Friday.

It was a very serious issue, a three-judge Bench said, directed the court’s registry to communicate the order immediately to the Chief Secretary.

The Bench of Chief Justice P. Sathasivam and Justices Ranjana Desai and Ranjan Gogoi also issued notice to the Centre, the States of Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu and the National Commission for Women.

The Bench passed the order on a writ petition filed by S.L. Foundation, whose counsel V.K. Biju said The Hindu and other leading newspapers had reported about the induction ceremony and sought the court’s intervention to stop it. He said the devadasi system was against the Karnataka Devadasis Prohibition of Dedication Act, 1982 and the rights of juveniles.

The petitioner said the system that dedicated girls to a life of sex work continued despite its having been made illegal in 1988. The system was a national shame and should be banned. A recent survey revealed that there were still over 30,000 devadasis in the country.

The petitioner sought guidelines to prevent exploitation of women under the system.

More In: Karnataka | National