Mumbai, Sep 17 (PTI) The Bombay High Court on Friday said the Maharashtra government has the responsibility and liability to ensure that the shameful practice of manual scavenging is not carried out anywhere in the state.
A division bench of Justices Ujjal Bhuyan and Madhav Jamdar sought to know from the state government if it had carried out a survey identifying manual scavengers across the state after the enactment of the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act in 2013 and what steps it had taken to rehabilitate them.
The court also sought to know how many manual scavengers had died at work since 1993 and if the state government had awarded compensation to their family members.
The court was hearing a petition filed by three women, whose husbands were employed as manual scavengers and had died while cleaning a septic tank at a private society in suburban Govandi here in December, 2019.
The petitioners had sought compensation from the government as per provisions of the Act.
The court on Friday directed the Mumbai suburban collector to pay each of the petitioners a sum of Rs 10 lakh by way of compensation.
“The amount shall be recovered by the Collector from the person or entity responsible for the death of the petitioners' husbands. The amount has to be paid within a period of four weeks,” the court said.
Government pleader Purnima Kantharia told the court that the company, which had hired the victims, had deposited three cheques of Rs 1.25 lakh for each of the petitioners after the incident.
The court directed for the cheques to be handed over to the petitioners and said the remaining amount should be handed over to them by the collector.
The court noted that considering the importance of the issue it was of the view that it should monitor the same to ensure that justice is dispensed.
“The Act of 2013 has clearly stated that all state governments have to ensure that manual scavenging is completely eradicated from the society. However, despite such strict legislative intent, this shameful practice continues and this should shock the collective conscience of the society,” the court said.
“The state government is liable and responsible to ensure that an end is put to this practice. Several courts including the Supreme Court have held from time to time that manual scavenging is a humiliating and shameful method of employing people from the lower strata of the society to carry out the hazardous job of cleaning septic tanks,” the court said.
The court directed the state government to submit all the information it has sought on October 18, when it would hear the plea next.
The bench also sought to know the status of the FIR lodged by the Govandi police station in the case of the deaths of the petitioners' husbands.