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Has State Promoted Use Of Modern Technology To Replace Manual Scavenging?Karnataka High Court Asks

Mustafa Plumber
27 March 2021 6:35 AM GMT
Allegations About Urban Local Bodies Engaging Contractors To Carry Out Manual Scavenging: Madras HC Seeks States Response

The Karnataka High Court has directed the state government to file an affidavit disclosing whether it has discharged its duty to promote, use of modern technology, for cleaning sewers.

A division bench of Chief Justice Abhay Oka and Justice S Vishwajith Shetty in its order dated March 16, said "The State Government will place on record whether it has discharged its duty as provided under sub-section (2) of Section 33 of the said Act of 2013. The State Government will also consider of issuance of notices to all the local authorities to take steps to comply with the obligation of sub-section (2) of Section 33 of the said Act of 2013."

Section 33, of the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013 states: Duty of local authorities and other agencies to use modern technology for cleaning of sewers, etc.--

(1) It shall be the duty of every local authority and other agency to use appropriate technological appliances for cleaning of sewers, septic tanks and other spaces within their control with a view to eliminating the need for manual handling of excreta in the process of their cleaning.

(2) It shall be the duty of the appropriate Government to promote, through financial assistance, incentives and otherwise, the use of modern technology, as mentioned in sub-section (1).

The bench also went through the compliance report filed by the state government in response to the interim directions given by the court in its order dated December 9, 2020 and said "The only conclusion which can be drawn is that there is hardly any compliance by the State Government with the provisions of the said Act of 2013."

The court had on December 9, held that "If any citizen is forced to do manual scavenging, it will be a gross violation of his fundamental right conferred under Article 21 of the Constitution of India. Under Article 47 of the Constitution of India which is a part of Directive Principles of the State Policy, the State is under an obligation to endeavor to improve the standard of living of its people."

It had observed that "There can be no dispute that our Constitutional philosophy does not permit any form of manual scavenging. 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." Following which it has issued several directions.

The court on perusing the compliance reports passed further directions to be complied by the state government, those are:

1: The State Government will immediately constitute a State Level Survey Committee.

2: In terms of sub-section (1) of Section 4 of the Act the State Government shall ensure that the survey commences immediately and is completed within a time bound schedule. The court said "Unless the said survey is carried out in its true letter and spirit, the very important provision of sub-section (1) of Section 4 of converting insanitary latrines into sanitary latrines cannot be given effect to. The State Government shall issue directions to all the local authorities fixing a time bound schedule for completing the survey and to place the same on record."

3: The State Government will have to take a call on the question whether health inspectors can be appointed as the inspectors under the Act. The State Government to take an appropriate decision on this aspect within one month from today.

4: The State Government must place on record material showing implementation of the schemes and must devise a comprehensive program for rehabilitation of all manual scavengers as provided in Section 13 of the Act. The court said "The State Government must place on record how many persons are the beneficiaries under the schemes set out and in what manner the beneficiaries are made aware of the availability of the schemes.

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