The Madras High Court on Monday asked the State government as to what steps have been taken for the rehabilitation of the families of manual scavengers, apart from payment of compensation to bereaved families.
The bench of Chief Justice AP Sahi and Justice Subramonium Prasad has asked the state to file its response within two months.
Inter alia, the court has also sought information on steps undertaken for mechanization of the scavenging process in the Municipalities throughout the State.
The directions have been passed in a batch of writ petitions, filed against the State for failing to curb manual scavenging, resulting into death of several manual scavengers in Villupuram and Kumbakonam Municipalities.
The Petitioners contended that there are clear directions from the court that engaging of manual scavengers would invite strict action under the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013. Nevertheless, the state authorities flout the provisions of the Act and turn a blind eye towards such incidents.
Accordingly, the court has called upon the Commissioner, Villupuram Municipality as also Kumbakonam Municipality to file an affidavit as to why appropriate action was not taken inspite of these incidents having occurred and if any action has been taken, the outcome thereof.
The court has also asked the state what further action has been taken against the defaulting persons, whose actions led to these deaths.
Notably, the State authorities had argued that the person who is stated to have died while carrying out scavenging operations was not a manual scavenger, but an employee of a Contractor engaged by the Municipality, who was working outside the sewer with mechanized equipment and the incident occurred despite the safety measures.
The Petitioners alleged however that the incidents having been admitted, the excuse setup that they were not manual scavengers does not appear to be correct.
The matter will now be taken up on April 28, 2020.
Earlier, the Madras High Court had observed that the state is under a bounden duty to prohibit manual scavenging and it cannot avoid its liability to compensate manual scavengers who lost their lives in course of manual scavenging, by reason of the inability of the State to stop manual scavenging.
Last year, the Punjab and Haryana High Court had also, taking suo moto cognizance of the continuing inhuman practice of manual scavenging, issued a series of mandatory directions to bring it to an end.
Case Title: Safai Karmcahari Andolan v. Union of India & Ors. (with connected matters)
Case No.: WP No. 17380/2017
Quorum: Chief Justice AP Sahi and Justice Subramonium Prasad