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Law Students' Plea Seeking Implementation Of Manual Scavengers Act: Allahabad High Court Seeks UP Govt's Response

Sparsh Upadhyay
26 March 2021 4:11 AM GMT
Law Students Plea Seeking Implementation Of Manual Scavengers Act: Allahabad High Court Seeks UP Govts Response
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The Allahabad High Court on Thursday (25th March) directed the Uttar Pradesh Government to file its response in a plea moved seeking implementation of the provisions of the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013 in the State of Uttar Pradesh. Having perused the recommendation made in the plea, the Bench of Chief Justice Govind Mathur and...

The Allahabad High Court on Thursday (25th March) directed the Uttar Pradesh Government to file its response in a plea moved seeking implementation of the provisions of the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013 in the State of Uttar Pradesh.

Having perused the recommendation made in the plea, the Bench of Chief Justice Govind Mathur and Justice Ajai Kumar Srivastava-I called upon State of Uttar Pradesh, Nagar Nigam, Prayagraj and Jal Nigam, Prayagraj to furnish its response to the contents of the petition for a writ at the earliest.

The plea before the Court

The petitioners, all students of Law at various Law Institutes in the country, through the instant plea, raised this issue after undertaking a detailed study with regard to objective conditions for scavenging in the city of Prayagraj and other certain areas of the State of Uttar Pradesh.

The Petitioners, in their survey, found that no adequate safety equipment is provided to the scavengers and that they are still working manually which is otherwise prohibited under the Act, 2013.

The petitioners after undertaking a systematic survey made following recommendations: -

  • Technological intervention, like Suction machines, should be made available to prevent Manual Scavenging.
  • Training of local bodies or sanitation inspectors about the act, safety procedure, the technical know-how of cleaning devices, should be imparted effectively.
  • Proper awareness program regarding the MS Act 2013 and its effective implementation in the ground should also be made a priority and sensitization for the authorities should be done.
  • Monitoring authorities to ensure compensation for the families and penalizing the implementation agencies at fault.
  • Comprehensive Rehabilitation of the families should be provided. One adult family member of the deceased should be given adequate skill training and an opportunity of employment.
  • Allotment of the due amount of scholarship and that there is effective implementation of the scheme for the children whose parent/s engaged in an occupation involving cleaning and prone to health hazards.
  • Appropriate infliction of penalty on those involved in the offence of employing people for the de-humanizing practice of manual scavenging.
  • Adequate budget allocation for the implementation of the Scheme for Rehabilitation of Manual Scavengers (SRMS) should be the urgent need of the authority as the budget has reduced drastically over the years.
  • Regulation of sanitation work is needed for – enumeration of sanitation workers, empanelment of private service providers, adoption of standard operating procedures, mechanization of sanitation work, and setting up an Emergency Response Sanitation Unit.

Further, it was argued before the Court that whatever recommendations are made by the petitioners are in consonance to the provisions of the Act, 2013 that was enacted to ensure a dignified life to the lowest rung of social hierarchy.

Significantly, the Petitioners asserted that the practice of manual scavenging is a must to restore human dignity and to abolish dehumanizing practice.

The matter has been listed for further hearing on 12th April, 2021 and the respondents have been directed to positively file the response to the petition for writ on or before 9th April, 2021.

In a significant observation, the Madras High Court on Tuesday (16th March) opined that it is high time that the heads of Corporations and Municipalities are held 'personally liable' for any death to anyone engaged in manual scavenging within their territories.

The Bench of Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy also directed the Secretary in the Municipal Administration and Water Supply to list out the measures taken in terms of the orders passed by the Court to stop the practice of Manual Scavenging.

Also, the Karnataka High Court in December 2020 issued several directions to the state government to ensure proper implementation of the provisions of the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013.

A division bench of Chief Justice Abhay Oka and Justice S Vishwajith Shetty, while hearing a petition filed by All India Council of Trade Unions(AICTU) and High Court Legal Services Committee, observed,

"There can be no dispute that our Constitutional philosophy does not permit any form of manual scavenging. The right of a citizen to live with dignity is an integral part of the fundamental rights guaranteed to the citizens under Article 21 of the Constitution of India. The preamble of the Constitution shows that the Constitution seeks to protect the dignity of an individual. There can be no dispute that manual scavenging is most inhuman and it infringes the fundamental rights guaranteed under Article 21."

Again, this month itself, the Karnataka High Court expressed serious concerns over the recent deaths of two manhole workers and another incident of a sweeper committing suicide after being allegedly forced to do manual scavenging.

A division bench headed by the Chief Justice AS Oka on Monday directed the State Government to respond to a memo filed seeking to ensure fair and proper investigation into the incident of a pourakarmika of Maddur Town Municipality, in Karnataka, committing suicide after being forced to clean a manhole without safety equipment.

Further, giving some closure to a long-standing public interest litigation proceeding, the Kerala High Court recently directed the State Government and its instrumentalities to disburse a sum of Rs 10 Lakh to family members of late Raju and Mayavu, who passed away while cleaning a manhole.

Also, the Supreme Court this week adjourned to August the hearing on a plea filed seeking initiation of criminal proceedings against officials, agencies, contractors or any other person involved in engaging or employing manual scavengers resulting in their death at work.

Case title - Anupriya Yadav and 7 others v. Union of India and Ors. [Public Interest Litigation (PIL) No. - 681 of 2021]


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