The Madras High Court has observed that the state is under a bounden duty to prohibit manual scavenging and it cannot avoid its liability to compensate manual scavengers who lose their lives in course of manual scavenging, by reason of the inability of the State to stop manual scavenging.
This observation was made by the bench headed by Chief Justice Indira Banerjee while disposing a PIL seeking orders on the State to pay interest for delay in release of compensation, to the heirs of the identified manual scavengers, who had lost their lives in course of manual scavenging.
The PIL sought directions to implement the Supreme Court judgment in Safai Karamchari Andolan and Others vs. Union of India and Others wherein a) the practice of manual scavenging has been directed to be closed; (b) the persons included in the final list of manual scavengers under Sections 11 and 12 of the 2013 Act have been directed to be rehabilitated as per the provisions of Part IV of the 2013 Act; and (c) compensation of Rs.10 lakhs has been directed to be paid to the dependent family members of all persons, who had died in sewerage work (manholes, septic tanks) since 1993.
The bench observed that the directions are not only concerned with manual scavengers engaged by the state and/or state authorities, but also manual scavengers engaged by private persons and/or entities, who had lost their lives in course of sewerage work. “The list is not to be just of manual scavengers engaged by a municipality, but manual scavengers engaged within the jurisdiction of a municipality,” the bench said.
Rejecting the prayer for granting the concerned families interest from the date of death of the manual scavengers, the bench directed the state to pay interest to the identified heirs of manual scavengers who lost their lives in course of manual scavenging and/or sewerage work at the rate of 8% per annum from 01.10.2014 till the date of payment of compensation of Rs.10 lakh to the concerned heirs.