The Karnataka High Court on Wednesday, December 10, 2020, issued directions to the state government to ensure proper implementation of the provisions of the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013.
A division bench of Chief Justice Abhay Oka and Justice S Vishwajith Shetty, while hearing petitions filed in All India Council of Trade Unions (AICTU) vs. Union of India (WP No. 8928 of 2020) and High Court Legal Services Committee vs. The State of Karnataka & Ors. (WP No. 3211 of 2018), observed, “There can be no dispute that our Constitutional philosophy does not permit any form of manual scavenging. Right of a citizen to live with dignity is an integral part of the fundamental rights guaranteed to the citizens under Article 21 of the Constitution of India. If anyone is compelled to do manual scavenging, it will be a violation of his fundamental right conferred under Article 21. Under Article 47 of the Constitution of India which is a part of Directive Principles of the State Policy, the State is under an obligation to endeavour to improve the standard of living of its people.”
The court highlighted differences between the old act [Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act, 1993] and Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013 and stated that, “Under sub-section (1) of Section 5 of the Manual Scavengers Act, 2013 there is a complete prohibition on manual scavenging. Under Section 3 of the Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act, 1993, the State Government was required to issue a notification for prohibiting engagement or employment of any person for manual scavenging. Thus, under the old Act, the prohibition was not automatic and the provisions of the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013 are more comprehensive.”
On going through past orders passed by the courts the bench said, “We have found that there is hardly any implementation of the provisions of the Manual Scavengers Act and the Rules in the State of Karnataka. Therefore, this is a case where continuous monitoring will be necessary and the power of issuing continuing mandamus will have to be exercised.”
In view of that, the bench issued certain guidelines, some of which are mentioned below:
- The State Government shall place on record the details about the number of First Information Reports registered for the offences punishable under the Manual Scavengers Act, 2013, the details of the cases in which charge sheets were filed, the details of the cases which are pending and the details of the Cases which resulted in conviction.
- The State Government shall call for the data from all the Districts for ascertaining whether the District Level Survey Committees have conducted surveys of manual scavengers and whether the Committees have published the final list of Manual Scavengers of the respective Districts. The State Government shall also place on record the necessary details of the State Level Survey Committees and the gist of functions discharged by the State level Committee.
- The State Government shall place on record comprehensive data about the survey of insanitary latrines throughout the State and shall direct all the Local Authorities to immediately ascertain the requirement of number of sanitary community latrines within their respective jurisdictions and thereafter, make construction of such latrines.
- The State Government shall place on record the details relating to publication of the District level and State level final list of Manual Scavengers.
- The State Government shall issue directions to all the Local Authorities to implement the provisions of the Manual Scavengers Act and the Rules by specifically referring to the obligations and duties under various provisions.
- The State Government shall immediately initiate an awareness campaign on a large scale for elimination of the practice of open defecation and ensure that all Local Authorities comply with their obligation of eliminating the practice of open defecation in their jurisdiction.
- The Karnataka High Court Legal Services Committee and all the District Legal Services Authorities will be entitled for making compliance with the directions issued by this Court and for implementation of the Manual Scavengers Act and the Rules framed there under.