A Karnataka High Court bench headed by Chief Justice Abhay Oka has directed the state government to consider issuing a general direction to all authorities to implement Rule 3 of The Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Rules, 2013.
The Rule 3 states as follows:
3. (1) No person shall be allowed to clean a sewer manually, with protective gear and
safety devices under these rules except :-
(a) for the removal of concrete or FRP (Fibre Reinforced Plastic) or damaged manhole door where mechanical equipment cannot be put into operation.
(b) for inter-linking the newly laid sewer main with the existing sewer main, in case of sewer of size of more than 300 mm diameter.
(c) for removal of submersible pump sets ?xed at the bottom of the suction wells.
(d) for the reconstruction of the manhole or recti?cation of the sewer main.
(2) For the purposes of clauses (c) and (d) of sub-rule (1), before allowing entry of a
person in the sewer, sewage shall be totally emptied.
The court is hearing two writ petitions filed by the All India Council of Trade Unions (AICTU) and High Court Legal Services Committee praying to discontinue the practice of allowing/forcing sanitary workers to physically enter manholes, sewer lines, septic tanks etc.
As per LiveLaw, the court said, “The state government shall consider issuing a general direction to all Urban and Rural local authorities as well as all agencies and instrumentalities of the state for implementation of Rule 3 of the said Rules of 2013. The State government shall also consider issuing a direction that whenever authorities appoint contractors, condition of complying with Rule 3, should be incorporated in the contract for work order”.
The petitions also concerned itself with the incident of three manual scavengers who died due to suffocation, while cleaning a pit in an apartment complex at Bengaluru. During the course of hearing, two more deaths of manual scavengers were reported in Kalaburgi who choked to death in a manhole, in January 2021.
Case until now
During the hearing in December, the court opined that continuous monitoring will be necessary and the power of issuing continuing mandamus will have to be exercised in this matter. The Division Bench also observed that, “If any citizen is forced to do manual scavenging, it will be a gross violation of his fundamental right conferred under Article 21 of the Constitution of India.”
During the hearing on February 2, the court perused the memo filed by the State Government on January 30 and observed that there is absolutely no compliance with the provisions of the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013 and the Rules. “They (petitioners) may be right in submitting that it is only due to the failure on the part of the authorities of the State and other agencies to implement the provisions of the Manual Scavengers Act that two persons who were forced to do manual scavenging, have lost their lives,” said the court. The court had observed that during the period of the last seven years, there is hardly any implementation of the Act in the state. The court then directed the State Government to place on record actions taken as regards the Kalaburgi incident.
The complete order may be read here.