In an attempt to uproot iniquitous practice of manual scavenging, the Hon’ble Madras High Court ordered that the State cannot deny compensation to manual scavenger who died while working, owing to its failure to stop manual scavenging as envisaged by The Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavenging and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013.    

While disposing a Public Interest Litigation filed in the matter of Change India v. Government of Tamil Nadu & Ors. a two-judge bench, headed by the Hon’ble Chief Justice of Madras High Court herself, observed that in the light of the directions given by the Hon’ble Supreme Court in Safai Karamchari Andolan and Ors. v. Union of India & Ors.  it can be contemplated that the directions were not constrained only to the manual scavengers engaged by the State or other State Authorities instead it will also bring those manual scavengers who work for private entities under its scope. The directions of the Hon’ble Supreme Court have been categorically enumerated as follows:

“3. The judgement and order has three limbs, (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 [The Prohibitions of Employment as Manual Scavenging and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013] have been directed to be rehabilitated as per the provisions of Part IV of the [The Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavenging and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013]; and (c) compensation of Rs. 10 lakhs have 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 Hon’ble Madras High Court also observed that the abovementioned judgment of the Hon’ble Supreme Court nowhere mentioned about interest to be paid on the compensation amount but considering the delay being caused in payment of compensation amount by the State it will be justified to grant an interest at the rate of 8% per annum from 1st October 2014 till the date of payment of the compensation amount.

Therefore, the matter was concluded with a remark as follows:

“8. The State is under a bounded 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.”


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