Judgment of the Supreme Court regarding manual scavenging, 20/10/2023

Judgment of the Supreme Court in the matter of Balram Singh Vs Union of India & Others dated 20/10/2023 regarding manual scavenging. A petition was filed under Article 32 of the Constitution of India seeking directions to Union of India and all the states and Union Territories to implement provisions, inter alia of the Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act, 1993 and Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and Their Rehabilitation Act, 2013.

The apex court in its 49 page judgment issued a total of 14 directions. These include the following:

1. The government of India should take appropriate measures and frame policies, and issue directions, to all statutory bodies, including corporations, railways, cantonments, as well as agencies under its control, to ensure that manual sewer cleaning is completely eradicated in a phased manner, and also issue such guidelines and directions as are essential, that any sewer cleaning work outsourced, or required to be discharged, by or through contractors or agencies, do not require individuals to enter sewers, for any purpose whatsoever

2. All states and Union Territories should ensure that all departments, agencies, corporations and other agencies make sure that guidelines and directions framed by the Union of India are embodied in their own guidelines and directions. The states are specifically directed to ensure that such directions are applicable to all municipalities, and local bodies functioning within their territories

3. The Union, state and Union Territories are directed to ensure that full rehabilitation (including employment to the next of kin, education to the wards, and skill training) measures are taken in respect of sewage workers, and those who die

4. The court directed the Union and the states to ensure that the compensation for sewer deaths is increased from ₹ 10 lakhs to ₹ 30 lakhs

5. The SC also directed development of a portal and a dashboard at the earliest date. This should contain all relevant information, including the information relating to sewer deaths, and victims, and the status of compensation disbursement, as well as rehabilitation measures taken, and existing and available rehabilitation policies, the order said.

"The Union and the states are duty bound to ensure that the practice of manual scavenging is completely eradicated. Each of us owe it to this large segment of our population, who have remained unseen, unheard and muted, in bondage, systematically trapped in inhumane conditions," said the bench comprising Justice S Ravindra Bhat and Justice Aravind Kumar.