The Himachal Pradesh High Court recently ordered the State authorities to give compensation of Rs. 2 Lakhs to a sweeper who was assigned the job of disposing of urine collected in a drum because the toilets were incomplete in a newly constructed building of Government Polytechnic.

The Court observed that State officials had not only violated the fundamental right to live with human dignity, but also the legal rights available to him under the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013.

The Bench of Justice Satyen Vaidya observed that “it is clearly established that petitioner has suffered humiliation, ridicule, disgrace, mortification and consequent embarrassment on account of acts and conduct attributable to the State and its instrumentalities. Respondents have been instrumental not only in violating the fundamental rights of the petitioner but also the legal rights available to him under 2013 Act. Even violation of legal rights has manifestation of violation of fundamental right, if remains un-redressed.”

In this case, the petitioner was engaged as a part-time Sweeper in Government Polytechnic in Chamba district of the State. The examination centre was in the fourth floor of newly constructed building, where there were no toilet facility available as the toilets were under construction. Hence, the petitioner was directed by the respondent no. 8 to arrange a drum to be kept outside the examination centre for enabling the students to urinate in the improvised container.

The petitioner was further directed to empty the drum on the first floor by carrying the same down from the fourth floor, to which the petitioner showed his inability, but he was forced to do the same. Thus, the petitioner was made to perform the inhuman act continuously right from December 5, 2017, to January 5, 2018. Representations were made to the Hon’ble Chief Minister and Hon’ble Chief Justice but his grievance was not redressed. An inquiry into the matter was conducted by the concerned Tehsildar, where the allegation levied by the petitioner were found to be baseless.

Aggrieved, the petitioner moved the writ petition before the High Court alleging a violation of his fundamental rights under Articles 14,17, and 21 of the Constitution.

Advocate Jeevan Kumar appeared for the petitioner.

CGC Virbahadur Verma appeared for respondent no. 1 and Additional AG Desh Raj Thakur appeared for the respondent 2-8 and submitted that the petitioner had voluntarily agreed to perform the duty and that the disposal of the urine collected was not being made on the first floor as alleged by the petitioner, but was being done on the third floor in the toilets which were not fully operational.

The Court observed that it was not denied by the respondent that arrangements were made with respect to improvised toilet, collection of urine in a container and its disposal at a place other than where it was collected and it was admitted that the petitioner was to dispose the urine, clearly violated section 5 of the Act, 2013 which prohibits employment and engagement of manual scavengers.

The Court, with regard to the respondent’s argument that the petitioner himself had been the consenting party, observed that “He was assigned four hours’ job daily for a meagre amount. Admittedly, the petitioner belongs to that stratum of society, which is kept busy in planning two ends meet. In such compelling conditions, the consent becomes totally irrelevant.”

The Court further observed that the petitioner belonged to the Scheduled Caste and being a member of an unprivileged member of society no one heard his representations and further called the inquiries so conducted as nothing more than a farce.

The Court further said that “The respondents have not only violated the rights of petitioner but have also undermined the mandate of law. The violator must not remain un-punished for it will not only deny justice to the petitioner but also prove regressive in our progression and quest for achieving the objectives enshrined in the Constitution."

Consequently, the Court ordered to pay Rs. 2 Lakhs as compensation and further directed to fully implement the provisions contained in the Act, 2013.

Accordingly, the petition was allowed.

Cause Title- Charno Ram v. Union of India & Ors.

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