The Bombay High Court has directed the Thane Municipal Corporation to release the compensation within a period of four weeks for the family of the sewage workers who died while performing their duties.

A Division Bench of Justice Dhiraj Singh Thakur and Justice Sandeep V. Marne said, “In our view, we need not go into this issue as the Municipal Corporation has already decided to pay compensation in such cases. Also, the Apex Court has directed payment of compensation in all cases irrespective of place of occurrence of death. All that we need to ensure at this stage is timely payment of compensation to the families considering the objective behind payment of compensation.”

The Bench observed that it cannot be that in every case of death of a sewage worker engaged in manual scavenging, there are competing claims amongst relatives.

Senior Advocate Gayatri Singh with Advocate Madhavi Gomathieswaran represented the petitioners while AGP R.P. Kadam and Senior Advocate R.S. Apte represented the respondents.

In this case, the petition preferred by Shramik Jant Sangh highlighted the delay involved in the payment of compensation to the family members of the deceased sewage workers who suffered death while cleaning the sewers/septic tanks. It was submitted that though Thane Municipal Corporation adopted a Resolution to pay compensation of Rs. 10,00,000/- to the family members of such deceased sewage workers who died while cleaning a sewer or septic tank of a private building or a Co-operative Society, the Municipal Corporation was insisting on production of heirship certificate/succession certificate as a precondition for payment of compensation.

It was the petitioners’ case that procurement of the heirship/succession certificate cause an inordinate delay in payment of compensation in addition to unnecessary expenses.

The High Court in the above context noted, “… the Municipal Corporation cannot insist on production of heirship/succession certificate in every case where there are no disputes amongst the relatives. In a given case where two sets of relatives file competing claims for compensation before the Municipal Corporation, it would be justified on procurement of heirship certificate. However, to insist for procurement of such heirship certificate in every case would completely defeat the entire objective behind payment of compensation to the family of deceased sewerage worker who has met with death while being engaged in manual scavenging.”

The Court said that the counsel for the respondents did attempt to impress that the Municipal Corporation is not responsible for payment of compensation where the death occurs in private buildings/societies but despite the absence of such liability, the corporation resolved to pay compensation in such cases, by recovering the compensation from the concerned building/society.

“… by way of interim order, we direct the Municipal Corporation not to insist upon the heirship /succession certificate in every case, where a death has occurred while cleaning sewars/ septic tanks. In absence of any dispute amongst the claimants, the Municipal Corporation shall conduct preliminary enquiry/verification into the claim by the family members and if the same is found to be genuine, the amount of compensation be released without insisting for procurement of heirship/succession certificate”, directed the Court.

The Court further directed that in respect of the pending cases, the corporation shall undertake the exercise of verification of documents submitted before it and in the event of the absence of any dispute, it shall release the amount of compensation within a period of four weeks.

Accordingly, the Court listed the matter for further consideration on August 24, 2023.

Cause Title- Shramik Janta Sangh & Ors. v. State of Maharashtra & Ors.

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