8 Jan 2023 10:43 AM GMT
The Himachal Pradesh High Court on Saturday ordered the state authorities to provide 2 Lakh as compensation to a sweeper who was assigned the job of disposing of collected urine in the incomplete toilets in a Government Polytechnic.Observing that the state officials had not only violated the fundamental rights of the petitioner, who hails from the Scheduled Caste category, but also the...
The Himachal Pradesh High Court on Saturday ordered the state authorities to provide 2 Lakh as compensation to a sweeper who was assigned the job of disposing of collected urine in the incomplete toilets in a Government Polytechnic.
Observing that the state officials had not only violated the fundamental rights of the petitioner, who hails from the Scheduled Caste category, but also the legal rights available to him under the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and Their Rehabilitation Act 2013, the bench of Justice Satyen Vaidya ordered that action/proceedings be initiated against the official(s)/ person(s) guilty of violating the provisions of 2013 act.
"...it is clearly established that petitioner has suffered humiliation, ridicule, disgrace, mortification and consequent embarrassment on account of acts and conduct attributable to the State and its instrumentalities. Respondents have been instrumental not only in violating the fundamental rights of the petitioner but also the legal rights available to him under the 2013 Act. Even violation of legal rights has the manifestation of violation of fundamental right if remains un-redressed," the Court said in its order.
The case in brief
The Bench was essentially dealing with the writ plea of a man, who was engaged as a part-time Sweeper in the Government Polytechnic in the Chamba district of the state. Between December 5, 2017, to January 5, 2018, the examination was conducted in the College on the fourth floor of the college building.
Since it was a newly constructed building, there was no toilet facility available on the fourth floor, as the toilets were under construction. Hence, the petitioner was directed by respondent No.8 to arrange a ‘drum’ (container) to be kept outside the examination center for enabling the students to urinate in the improvised container.
The petitioner was further directed to empty the drum on the first floor by carrying the same down from the fourth floor. Petitioner showed his inability to undertake the assigned job, but he was forced to do the same for a period of one month. Though an inquiry into the matter was conducted by the concerned tehsildar, it gave a clean chit to the respondents.
In these circumstances, the petitioner moved to the HC alleging a violation of his fundamental rights under Articles 14, 17, and 21 of the Constitution of India
On the other hand, the case put up by respondent no. 8 was that the petitioner had voluntarily agreed to perform the duty and in fact, the temporary urinal outside the examination hall was planned in association with the petitioner.
It was further submitted that the disposal of collected urine was not being made on the first floor as alleged by the petitioner, but was being done on the third floor in the toilets which were still not fully operational.
High Court's observations
Taking into account the facts and submissions made in the case, the Court noted that it was disputed that the urine was being collected in an improvised container and the petitioner was assigned the duty to dispose it of, which was in clear violation of Section 5 of the 2013 Act, which specifically prohibiting employment and engagement of manual scavengers.
The Court further addressed the argument raised by the respondents that the sweeper was a consenting party by observing that the petitioner belongs to that stratum of society, which is kept busy in planning two ends meet, and hence, the Court added that in such compelling conditions, the consent becomes totally irrelevant.
Further, noting that none heard the representation of the petitioner since he belongs to an underprivileged class, the Court called the inquiry held by the Tehsildar of the area to be farce.
Against this backdrop, stressing that the respondents not only violated the rights of the petitioner but also undermined the mandate of law, the Court observed thus:
"The violator must not remain unpunished for it will not only deny justice to the petitioner but also prove regressive in our progression and quest for achieving the objectives enshrined in the Constitution."
Consequently, ordering 2 Lakh compensation for the petitioner and initiating action against the erring officials, the Court further directed the State Government and the Union of India to fully implement the provisions contained in the 2013 act.
Case Title - Charno Ram vs. Union of India and others [CWP No. 84 of 2019]
Case Citation: 2023 LiveLaw (HP) 2
Click Here To Read/Download order