The Delhi High Court, by way of enforcing the principle of ‘Strict Liability’, held the Delhi State Industrial and Infrastructure Development Corporation Ltd (DSIIDC) liable for the deaths of 2 manual scavengers who died in 2011 during the cleaning process in Bawana Industrial Area in Delhi. The Delhi HC observed that it was the duty and responsibility of the DSIIDC and the Delhi Jal Board to undertake the cleaning activity but had severely failed to do so and deceased persons were forced to enter the sewage areas without proper safety and ventilating equipment.
The HC laid reference to the judgements in MCD v Association of Victims of Uphaar Tragedy [(2011) 14 SCC 481] and UOI v Prabhakaran Vijaykumar & Ors [(2008) 9 SCC 527] and construed the failure on the part of the PSU to ensure that the sewers were not opened by anyone in accordance to provisions of Prevention of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act of 2013. It was further referred to the observation of the Supreme Court that activities that are hazardous in nature expect a high degree of care and if injury is caused during the implementation of the activity, the State shall be held responsible even if there was no negligence and that it was unintentional. The HC rejected the defences placed by the DSIIDC as it could not be absolved of its obligations to pay compensation to the families of the deceased as there existed a proximate connection between the deaths and the obligations of the DSIIDC to maintain the sewers.
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