Kerala HC directs Water Authority to compensate families of manual scavengers who died cleaning manhole

The court directed the state to pay compensation of Rs. 10 lakh in addition to the compensation paid by the contractor

Manual Scavengers

The Kerala High Court has directed the Kerala Water Authority to ensure payment of compensation of Rs. 10 lakh each, to families of two workmen who lost their lives while cleaning a manhole. This order was made in addition to the Rs. 4 lakh compensation already paid by the contractor, as the bench of Chief Justice S Manikumar and Justice Shaji P Chaly observed that the Supreme Court’s precedent had to be followed in letter and spirit, whereby the court had specifically directed state government to pay compensation to such affected families.

A Public Interest Litigation (PIL) was filed by one Baisil Attippety (now deceased) in 2014, seeking adequate and sufficient compensation to the workmen who died on April 13, 2014 while cleaning the manhole of Kerala Water Authority sewerage pipeline. The petition had cited the apex court judgment in Delhi Jal Board v. National Campaign for Dignity and Rights of Sewerage and Allied Workers & ors (2011) 8 SCC 568 whereby the court had issued guidelines, instructions and orders to be adhered, while workers are entering inside the manhole of sewerage pipeline for cleaning. The petitioner stated that the presence of at least an Assistant Engineer of the Kerala Water Authorities in the workplace was mandatory, and further asserted that the deaths of two workers were caused as they were not provided with adequate gears and oxygen masks. Further, even the Police and Fire rescue team did not have the necessary tools to rescue the poor workmen.

The court referred to the Supreme Court judgement in Safai Karamchari Andolan and Others v. UOI and ors (2014) 11 SCC 224, and whereby the court had directed governments to identify the families of all persons, who have died in the sewerage work (manholes, septic tanks) since 1993, and award compensation of Rs.10 lakhs, for each such death to the family members while also directing their rehabilitation.

The court took into consideration the compensation of Rs. 4 lakh each, paid by the contractor but at the same time relied upon the apex court’s decision in Safai Karamchari case and held that the compensation was directed to be paid by either the Central or state government and not the contractor.

“Therefore, notwithstanding payments already made by the contractor, by virtue of the judgment of the Hon’ble Apex Court in Safai Karamchari Andolan’s case, Government of Kerala represented by the Secretary to the Government is bound to pay compensation of Rs.10,00,000/- each, to the family members of the persons, who died in sewerage work (manholes, septic tanks),” the court held.

The court directed that the legal heirs certificates of both deceased be sent forthwith to Kerala Water Authority and the Authority has been directed to take steps for payment of compensation of Rs.10,00,000/- each. The court, in this case, has heavily relied upon the Supreme Court’s judgment and asked the State to act in accordance with the directions issued in that judgment. “Let the judgment of the Hon’ble Supreme Court be honoured by the abovesaid respondents, in letter and spirit, without giving room, for further litigation,” the court remarked.

The complete judgment may be read here:



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