23 Aug 2022 3:00 AM GMT
While hearing a petition seeking to put an end to the practice of manual scavenging, the Madras High Court on Monday held that if any municipality was seen to engage in the practice of manual scavenging, even through private contractors, the Commissioner of the said municipality shall be made liable for the same. The bench of Chief Justice Munishwar Nath Bhandari and Justice N Mala...
While hearing a petition seeking to put an end to the practice of manual scavenging, the Madras High Court on Monday held that if any municipality was seen to engage in the practice of manual scavenging, even through private contractors, the Commissioner of the said municipality shall be made liable for the same.
The bench of Chief Justice Munishwar Nath Bhandari and Justice N Mala were hearing the petition filed by Safai Karmachari Andolan. The petitioners had sought for a complete prohibition on the practice of manual scavenging and to take actions against the erring officials. The petitioners had also sought for setting up of a Vigilance Committee as provided under the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act 2013 and to set up proper rules to oversee the same.
The court had previously directed said that the heads of Corporations and Municipalities will be held 'personally liable' for any death due to manual scavenging within their territories:
There cannot be any manual scavenging at all and it will continue to be the responsibility of all municipal bodies and Corporations across the State to ensure that there is no manual scavenging activity undertaken. The Commissioners of the Corporations and the heads of the Municipalities, as indicated in previous orders, will be personally held liable in case any manual scavenging activity is detected or any mishap occurs in course thereof.
Mr. Srinath Sridevan, appearing for the petitioners informed the court that after passing of the above interim orders, the corporations continued to engage persons for manual scavenging through private contractors and otherwise. 15 persons had died while performing such jobs wherein two deaths were reported just last week. They also informed the court that they had filed an additional affidavit highlighting all these incidents.
In view of the deaths that had taken place, the court emphasized that there was an urgency in hearing the matter. At the same time, however, an opportunity must be given to parties to present their case. Thus, the court granted one week's time to the respondent authorities to file their reply to the additional affidavit.
Last week, the counsel for the petitioner apprised the court about laborers being engaged to clean sewage just outside the High Court campus. The court took serious note of the incident and directed the Additional Advocate General to do the needful. In turn, the Additional Advocate General informed the court that officers of the Greater Chennai Corporation had been instructed to stop the work immediately and barricade the area.
Case Title: Safai Karamchari Andolan v. Union of India and others
Case No: WP No. 17380 of 2017