Madras HC moved for payment of interest to families of deceased Manual Scavengers
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Madras HC moved for payment of interest to families of deceased Manual Scavengers

Meera Emmanuel

A petition has been filed in the Madras High Court praying to direct the payment of interest in addition to the mandatory compensation payable to beneficiaries under the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013.

The petition filed by NGO ChangeIndia, through its director A Narayanan, was heard today by the First Bench of Chief Justice Indira Banerjee and Justice M Sundar.

The petitioner has reiterated that, following the Supreme Court verdict in Safai Karamchari Andolan & Ors v Union of India, the government is obligated to identify and pay a compensation of Rs 10 lakh to families of persons who have died doing manual scavenging since 1993.

A writ petition was moved in the Madras High Court in 2015 calling for the implementation of the 2013 Act, as called for by the above mentioned Supreme Court directive. The same was disposed of with directions to the state to file compliance reports every three months.

Specific directions were also passed thereafter by the Court from time to time, monitoring the progress made in the implementation of the law and releasing compensation to bereaved families of manual scavengers. The last such direction was passed in November 2016.

In the meanwhile, the Madurai Bench of the Court allowed a similar petition filed in 2016 by the widow of a manual scavenger killed in a septic tank accident. In this case, the Court also directed that, in addition to the a compensation amount of Rs 10 lakh, the Government should also pay an interest at the rate of 9% per annum, from the date of expiry of one month from death of the victim till the date payment of compensation. 

Following this, the petitioner had made a representation to the government last June proposing that similar progressive measures be taken for all such eligible beneficiaries as well.

The representation also raised concerns that in several cases, partial amounts were paid at different points of time, thereby depriving the beneficiaries of wholesome compensation. It has been submitted that the representation received no satisfactory response from the state authorities.

On hearing arguments made in favour of this proposition, the Court today directed the state to file a detailed report of manual scavengers/sewage workers who have died and to furnish connected information regarding those given compensation, those yet to be given compensation, the age profile of dead manual scavengers etc.

The matter is posted to be heard next on October 23.

This is not the first time the courts have interfered in a bid to curb manual scavenging. In 2013, the Karnataka High Court directed the state government to comply with the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act in 2013 (Manual Scavengers Act). The High Courts of Patna and Delhi have also similarly pulled the respective state governments over the issue.

Read copy of petition below.

Affidavit-interest-on-compensation-watermark.pdf
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Image taken from here.

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