On Friday, the Bombay High Court to compensate and rehabilitate the widows of Manual Scavengers who lost their lives in cleaning tanks directed District Collector.
A division bench of Justices Ujjal Bhuyan and Madhav Jamdar, calling the case “eye-opening,” issued an interim judgment directing compensation of Rs. 10 lakhs to be given within four weeks, in compliance with the Supreme Court’s decision in Safai Karamchari Andolan v. Union of India.
Vimla Govind Chorotiya, Neeta Santosh Kalshekar, and Bani Vishwajit Debnath have approached the court after their husbands died on December 23, 2019, while cleaning a septic tank at a private housing society in Govandi.
The court stated that the State would be free to reclaim the funds from the party in question. Even though the fatalities occurred in a private housing society, the petitioners’ lawyer, Isha Singh, contended that the State was strictly liable and responsible for providing compensation to the families under Article 17 of the Constitution.
She cited the Supreme Court’s decision in Safai Karamchari Andolan v. Union of India in 2014, also a clarification issued in 2016, to contend that the government must provide Rs. 10 lakhs to the family of every person killed in sewerage work working for the government or for the private sector both the sectors.
On Friday, Kantharia stated that, in addition to compensation, the government was willing to rehabilitate the petitioners by awarding scholarships to their children in compliance with Section 13 of the Prohibition of Employment of Manual Scavengers Act, 2013.
The petitioners will be included in the list of manual scavengers, she said. She further informed the Court that she had provided three cheques totalling Rs. 1.25 lakhs for the pet on Thursday, as per the Court’s directions.
The directions that were passed by the bench are:
- The petitioners will be reimbursed in the amount of Rs. 10 lakhs within four weeks of the date of this judgment.
- The widows will be given rehabilitation services.
- The State of Maharashtra shall provide the Court with information on the people who have perished as manual scavengers in Maharashtra since 1993.
- The State of Maharashtra shall also state the Court the number of Manual Scavengers identified in the state and whether their families have received any compensation.
- The State of Maharashtra must tell the Court whether a survey of manual scavengers in urban areas is being done in accordance with Sections 11 and 12 of the Prohibition of Employment as Scavengers and they’re of prohibition and their rehabilitation Act, 2013.
The court stated that it would keep an eye on the case to make sure that all of the stipulations of the 2013 Prohibition of Employment of Manual Scavengers Act were followed. The court has also decided to investigate if a Maharashtra government resolution passed in 2019 addressing the payment of compensation to manual scavengers complies with the Supreme Court’s orders.
The lawsuit is now set to be heard on October 18, 2021.