21 July 2023 7:55 AM GMT
The Bombay High Court has directed the Thane Municipal Corporation (TMC) not to insist on heirship/succession certificates for grant of compensation to kin of sewage workers who died while cleaning sewers/septic tanks, in cases where there are no disputes among the claimants.A division bench of Justice Dhiraj Singh Thakur and Justice Sandeep V. Marne passed the interim order in a writ...
The Bombay High Court has directed the Thane Municipal Corporation (TMC) not to insist on heirship/succession certificates for grant of compensation to kin of sewage workers who died while cleaning sewers/septic tanks, in cases where there are no disputes among the claimants.
A division bench of Justice Dhiraj Singh Thakur and Justice Sandeep V. Marne passed the interim order in a writ petition filed by Shramik Janta Sangh highlighting the delay in payment of compensation to the family members of deceased sewage workers.
“By way of an interim order, we direct the Municipal Corporation not to insist upon the heirship /succession certificate in every case, where a death has occurred while cleaning sewars/ septic tanks. In absence of any dispute amongst the claimants, the Municipal Corporation shall conduct preliminary enquiry/verification into the claim by the family members and if the same is found to be genuine, the amount of compensation be released without insisting for procurement of heirship/succession certificate”, the court ordered.
Thane Municipal Corporation has adopted a Resolution to pay compensation of Rs.10,00,000/- to the family members of such deceased sewage workers who die while cleaning of a sewer or septic tank of a private building or a Co-operative Society.
Senior Advocate Gayatri Singh for the petitioners argued that the TMC's demand for heirship or succession certificates was resulting in unnecessary delays and additional financial burdens for the bereaved families. She asserted that such demands were directly contradictory to the directions issued by the Supreme Court, which aimed to provide swift and compassionate compensation to the families of the deceased workers.
The Court considered the directions issued by the Supreme Court on March 27, 2014, in the case of Safai Karamchari Andolan and Ors vs. Union of India & Ors. The apex court had specifically ordered the payment of Rs. 10 lakhs as compensation to the families of deceased sewage workers who died while working in sewers or septic tanks since 1993. Moreover, it had emphasized the need for rehabilitation based on principles of justice and transformation.
Further, the Court took cognizance of the fact that the insistence on the production of heirship/succession certificates was significantly delaying the compensation process. The Court took note of an incident mentioned in TMC’s reply affidavit where three sewage workers died on May 9, 2021. Compensation was released to only one worker's family after a delay of two years, despite no disputes among the claimants. The remaining two families are still awaiting compensation due to the ongoing proceedings for the issuance of heirship/succession certificates, the court noted.
While acknowledging the TMC's concerns about preventing fraudulent claims, the Court observed that such concerns should not lead to inordinate delays in providing compensation to the rightful beneficiaries. The Court expressed concern that prolonged wait for compensation was defeating the entire objective of providing swift support to the families of deceased sewage workers.
The Court underscored that it was implausible to assume that in every case of a sewage worker's death, there would be competing claims among relatives. Therefore, TMC's insistence on the procurement of heirship/succession certificates in every case would be unjustified, the Court said. The Court asserted that the requirement should be limited to cases where disputes existed among the claimants.
“In a given case where two sets of relatives file competing claims for compensation before the Municipal Corporation, it would be justified on procurement of heirship certificate. However, to insist for procurement of such heirship certificate in every case would completely defeat the entire objective behind payment of compensation to the family of deceased sewerage worker who has met with death while being engaged in manual scavenging”, the Court said.
The Court directed the TMC has to conduct a preliminary enquiry and verification of the claims made by the families. If the claims are found to be genuine and uncontested, the court ordered prompt release of the compensation amount, without any insistence on heirship/succession certificates.
The Court directed the Thane Municipal Corporation to undertake the verification process for pending cases brought to light by the petitioners. Compensation in cases which do not have any dispute should be released within four weeks from the date of the court's order.
Case no. – Writ Petition No. 1570 of 2023
Case Title – Shramik Janta Sangh & Ors. v. State of Maharashtra & Ors.
Click Here To Read/Download Order