The observations made by Madras High Court in a judgment rendered on January 10 has raised a storm..In a petition filed by one Mahalakshmi, Justice T Raja’s observations as also the language/ nomenclature employed by him has brought the spotlight on “scavenging”..Facts.The petitioner in the case, one Mahalakshmi and her husband were working as sweepers in Anna University College of Engineering at Dindigul (College)..Mahalakshmi had moved the Madras High Court seeking enquiry and action against the Principal of the College, Chitraselvi. Mahalakshmi had also prayed for regularizing her services along with her husband’s with all service benefits..The petitioner, who belongs to the Hindu Schedule Caste community of Arunthathiyar, had submitted that Chitraselvi compelled her to clean the toilets in her house and wash clothes and even the inner dresses of her husband and children. Mahalakshmi had also submitted that they were not given any safety equipments when they were compelled to clean drainage and toilets and the mandatory requirements under the provisions of the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and Rehabilitation Act, 2013 were not adhered to. It was also her allegation Chitraselvi scolded her by addressing her using her caste name..The petitioner had narrated the above ordeal in a representation sent on July 19, 2017 to the District Collector, Dindigul as well as to the State Human Rights Commission, and to the Deputy Inspector General of Police, Dindigul Range and other higher officials. However, it was her contention that instead of taking action on the basis of the petitioner’s complaint, even the Superintendent of Police, Dindigul, started harassing the petitioner and her husband and threatened them to withdraw the complaint. Therefore, she was advised to approach the High Court for the relief of a mandamus..Submissions of the parties.The respondent Chitraselvi had rebutted the allegations stating that the same were frivolous and deliberate falsehood. It was Selvi’s argument that she belonged to the same community as that of the petitioner and therefore, the question of using her caste name did not arise..“The learned counsel for the sixth respondent submitted that when the sixth respondent was also belonging to the same Scheduled Caste community, the deliberate falsehood made by the petitioner that she was abused by the sixth respondent using her caste name is highly unimaginary and a motivated falsehood”..Narrating a different version of the story, Chitraselvi had contended that the petitioner’s allegations and actions were blackmailing tactics for the purpose of regularization of her service. In order to buttress her case, Selvi had also cited a letter of apology by other sweepers working in the college in which they had denied they were also blackmailed by the petitioner and her husband..Further, it was also the respondent’s argument that the petitioner and her husband did not appear before the police official for enquiry into the complaints..“Their deliberate absence from enquiry and the apology letter by the other co-scavengers clearly proves that they are complaint-mongers and they are not prepared to work, but they want to blackmail the respondents for getting their regularization only”, the respondent had submitted..Judgment.The Court, after considering the submissions of the parties, and placing reliance on the apology letter given by other sweepers and reports of various police officers, concluded that the allegations of the petitioner are false and frivolous..“the apology letter dated 15.7.2017 given by other co-workers also shows that the petitioner had blackmailed the other co-workers stating that if they did not cooperate with her, she would commit suicide by pouring kerosene on herself. This fact has been clearly spelt out by the Inspector of Police of Oddanchatram circle in his report. .However, the enquiry conducted by the Sub Inspector of Police, Reddiarchatram Police Station and one another enquiry conducted by the Deputy Superintendent of Police, Oddanchatram on the complaint given by the parties would clearly show that both the petitioner and the sixth respondent are belonging to the same community. Therefore, the allegations made by the petitioner against the sixth respondent that she abused her by using the caste name is nothing but a calculated falsehood.”.That the petitioner did not turn up for enquiry was also held against her. The Court, therefore, directed that the petition be dismissed while also observing that the Principal, Chitraselvi is at liberty to initiate appropriate disciplinary proceedings against the petitioner..“for the false allegations made by the petitioner against the Principal of the fifth respondent college, the Principal of the college is also at liberty to initiate appropriate disciplinary proceedings against her, if deemed fit, in accordance with law.”.The Court also imposed costs of Rs. 25,000 on the petitioner for wasting the precious time of the court..Observations on “scavenging”.However, what has raised many an eyebrow, are the observations made by the court on what it considers as falling within the scope of employment as “scavenger”. The Court has stated that when the petitioner is serving as a daily rated employee/ scavenger, she has to clean toilets and wash clothes, “irrespective of whether it is inner cloth or out cloth”..“In my considered opinion, when the petitioner was serving as a daily rated employee and her nature of work is to clean the premises including the restroom and also to wash the clothes, it is not known how the petitioner can exceptionally make a complaint that the sixth respondent had compelled her to clean the toilets in her house and wash her dresses and inner dresses of her husband. .When she is employed as a Scavenger/Cleaner in the fifth respondent college and on routine basis, she is also posted in her house, she has to clean the toilets in the house and also wash her dresses irrespective of the fact that whether it is her dresses or the inner dresses of her husband or other members. It does not make any difference..Similarly, when a sweeper/scavenger is employed, he/she has to clean up the toilet also, because she was appointed for washing the clothes of all the family members for which she has been paid therefor. Hence, being a domestic maid appointed as Sweeper and Cleaner, she has to wash all the clothes irrespective of the clothes, whether it is inner cloth or outer cloth.”.The Court has further stated that a sweeper cannot complain that she cannot clean toilet and that is wholly unacceptable..“Similarly, a Sweeper cannot complain that she cannot be compelled to clean up the toilet, therefore, making a complaint that the scavenger was compelled to clean up the toilet, is wholly unacceptable.”.Read the judgment below.