8 July 2022 10:57 AM GMT
The Centre has informed the Delhi High Court that due to various initiatives brought in by the Government, the number of tragic accidents while cleaning sewers and septic tanks have come down significantly. The short affidavit has been filed by the Central Government through its Department of Social Justice and Empowerment in a PIL filed in 2019 by Advocate Amit Sahni, seeking strict...
The Centre has informed the Delhi High Court that due to various initiatives brought in by the Government, the number of tragic accidents while cleaning sewers and septic tanks have come down significantly.
The short affidavit has been filed by the Central Government through its Department of Social Justice and Empowerment in a PIL filed in 2019 by Advocate Amit Sahni, seeking strict compliance of Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and Their Rehabilitation Act, 2013 in order to prevent loss of lives due to manual cleaning of septic tanks and sewers.
While stating that sanitation is a State subject, the affidavit provides that the cases of manual scavenging and deaths due to cleaning of septic tanks and sewers are forwarded to the State Government for taking necessary action.
"It is further submitted that the deaths reported by the States/Union Territories are due to hazardous cleaning of sewer/septic tanks, which has been prohibited by Act, 2013, except for in some extra ordinary cases only with the approval of the competent authority as per the Act, 2013," the affidavit reads.
Emphasizing that the Government is seriously concerned with the tragic incidents of deaths while cleaning sewer and septic tanks, the Centre has stated that as and when such case comes to its notice, the matter is immediately taken up with the concerned State Government to ensure payment of compensation to the affected family members and for taking action against the persons or agencies responsible for engaging persons for hazardous cleaning for sewer or septic tanks.
Various initiatives launched by the Centre for implementing the objectives of the 2013 Act, according to the affidavit, are Swachhta Udyami Yojana, Mobile Application Swachhata Abhiyaan and Health Insurance Benefits wherein health insurance of Rs. 5 lakh is provided to identified manual scavengers and their families (spouse and dependent children) through Pradhan Mantri Jan Arogya Yojana (PM-JAY).
The affidavit also adds that the Government of India has also formulated a "National Policy on Mechanised Sanitation Ecosystem" and circulated to all the States and Union Territories for implementation.
It has further been informed that as per the Supreme Court's directions in Safai Karamchari Andolan versus Union of India, the Centre has directed the States and Union Territories to identify all the cases of sewerage related deaths that have occurred in the areas under their jurisdiction since 1993 and ensure payment of compensation of Rs.10 lakhs in each case to the affected families.
During the course of hearing today, Advocate Amit Sahni sought permission from the Court to file his suggestions in response to the reply filed by Centre.
Accordingly, the division bench comprising of Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma and Justice Subramonium Prasad today ordered thus:
"Counsel (for the petitioner) prays for and is granted four weeks time to file written synopsis in the matter. Respondent, if so desire, shall also file written synopsis."
The matter has now been listed for hearing on September 3.
According to the plea, Centre is answerable to the Court as it has established State Channelling Agencies (SCAs) in different States and UTs to monitor the issue of manual scavenging, however, has "utterly failed to control the same".
It has been added that instead of lowering down the death rates, they are rather shooting up, meaning thereby that the provisions of 2013 Act are not being followed strictly.
Case Title: AMIT SAHNI v. GOVT. OF NCT OF DELHI & ORS