Manual Scavenging: SC Issues Fresh Directions, Asks Centre To Report Steps Taken For Prohibition Within 6 Weeks
The Supreme Court being anguished by the continuance of the practice of manual scavenging that has led to sewer deaths has issued fresh directions for stricter implementation of the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013 and the Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act, 1993.
The Court has also asked the Centre to report the steps taken for the prohibition of manual scavenging within a period of six weeks.
The two-Judge Bench of Justice S. Ravindra Bhat and Justice Dipankar Datta said, “The Union of India shall file an affidavit through the Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment. The Union Secretary, Ministry of Social Justice & Empowerment is directed to look into these aspects and place an affidavit on the record. These directions shall be complied with within six weeks.”
The petitioner appeared in person while ASG Aishwarya Bhati and Advocate Gurmeet Singh Makker appeared for the respondents.
In this case, the petitioner was motivated by public interest litigation and made several claims including the issuance of directions to implement provisions, inter alia, of the Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act, 1993 and the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and Their Rehabilitation Act, 2013.
The Apex Court had an occasion to deal with such a subject matter in the case of Safai Karamchari Andolan And Others vs. Union of India And Others (2014) 11 SCC 224. The Court then dealt with the provisions of the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and Their Rehabilitation Act, 2013, and issued necessary directions.
The Supreme Court in light of the above judgment issued the following directions to consider the steps taken towards enforcement of the law –
“(I) the respondent – Union shall place on record the steps taken pursuant to the judgment of this Court, viz.-a-viz. The Status of implementation of the 2013 Act i.e. Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and Their Rehabilitation Act, 2013 including the steps towards rehabilitation of such persons falling within the definition of ‘Manual Scavengers’.
(II) Steps taken towards abolition/demolition of Dry Latrines, statewise.
(III)Status of Dry Latrines and Safai Karamcharies in Cantonment Boards and Railways.
(IV) Employment of Safai Karamcharies in Railways and Cantonments Boards whether directly or indirectly i.e. through Contractors or otherwise.
(V) Statewise set up of Municipal Corporation and the nature of equipment (as well as the description of technical equipment), deployed by such bodies to mechanize sewage cleaning.
(VI) The feasibility of developing internet based solutions for real time tracking of sewage deaths and action taken by their concerned authorities including the appropriate Government towards payment of compensation and rehabilitation of families.”
The Court, therefore, asked the Centre to comply with the directions within six weeks and listed the matter next on April 12, 2023.
Accordingly, the Court issued necessary directions.
Cause Title- Dr. Balram Singh v. Union of India & Ors.