File written undertakings against manual scavenging: HC to officials

‘They shall be held personally responsible if it is detected’

The Madras High Court on Wednesday directed the Commissioners of all municipal corporations as well as municipalities across the State to file written undertakings before the court to the effect that no manual scavenging will be permitted to be undertaken, even by private individuals, within their territorial jurisdiction.

Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice P.D. Audikesavalu issued the interim directions on a public interest litigation petition filed by Safai Karamchari Andolan in 2017 complaining about several deaths having been reported across the State due to manual scavenging despite the practice having been banned by way of law.

On Wednesday, the judges expressed satisfaction over no manual scavenging death having been reported in the State since they passed their last interim order making it clear that the Commissioners of civic bodies would be held personally responsible if any manual scavenging activity is detected or if any mishap occurs within their jurisdiction.

Reiterating their order, they directed the government to make every endeavour to procure cleaning machines and improve the sewer lines so that manual scavenging need not be resorted to at all.

“It will also be the responsibility of heads of corporations and municipalities to ensure that no private person indulges in manual scavenging activity,” they said.

The Bench, further, granted six weeks to the State government to come up with a template of critical guidelines with regard to prohibiting manual scavenging in toto.

They also stated that a decision would be taken later on making every new Commissioner of a civic body to file an undertaking in court against manual scavenging immediately after assuming office.

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