High Court Legal Services Authority v. State of Karnataka

September 24, 2021 | Sheerene Mohamed
Case No. WP 3211/2018 Date of Filing 18/01/2018 Status Pending Petitioners Karnataka High Court Legal Services Authority Respondents 1. State of Karnataka 2. Housing and Urban Department 3. Bruhat Bengaluru Mahangara Pallike 4.Bangalore Water and Sewage Board 5. Union of India 6. National Commission for Safai Karamcharis 7. Thamate

This is a Public Interest Litigation filed against the State Government for failing to implement the provisions of the Prohibition of Employment of Manual Scavengers and Rehabilitation Act, (PEMSRA), 2013. Despite the provisions of the Act, the inhumane practice of using persons in manual scavenging has continued, leading to 68 deaths since 2008. The Petitioners have challenged this practice, arguing that it is inhumane and violative of Art.14, 17, 21 and 23 of the Constitution. The practice has already been banned since the passage of the Act, yet it has continued. In the case of Safai Karamchari Andolan v. Union of India, SCC 2014 SC 224, the Supreme Court has given directions to the State to “transform the lives of manual scavengers” and carry out all necessary acts to remove such inhumane practices.

 

IMPLEADMENT BY THAMATE

 

Thamate, the Centre for Rural Empowerment, is an organisation working for the eradication of manual scavenging. It was founded by senior Dalit rights activists, with the goal of ending caste-based occupation. Thamate filed an impleadment application in this case to seek specific directions on the implementation of the PEMSRA in Karnataka.

 

At present, manual scavengers are primarily employed from lower or backward castes. They are made to enter drains and clean human excrement with their bare hands, without any protective equipment or gear.  They are then made to carry it to dumping sites for disposal. This adversely affects their health and wellness, causing a host of infectious diseases, musculoskeletal conditions, and in some cases, asphyxiation from poisonous gases.

 

In this regard, Thamate has provided the Court with a chart detailing the provisions of the PEMSRA and the implementation measures necessary for each provision. PEMSRA also provides rehabilitation measures, yet the implementation is poor. Through this litigation, the Court has directed the government to effectively implement these provisions.

 

During the pendency of this litigation, various newspapers have reported deaths of manual scavengers due to asphyxiation while working in latrines. On January 29, 2021 two daily wage workers died.  On June 4th,2021, three others died of similar causes. Subsequently, the Court has ordered the authorities of the respective districts to conduct inquiries into each incident.

 

The case is ongoing and the next date of hearing is 4.10.21.

 

 

Case No. WP 3211/2018 Date of Filing 18/01/2018 Status Pending Petitioners Karnataka High Court Legal Services Authority Respondents 1. State of Karnataka 2. Housing and Urban Department 3. Bruhat Bengaluru Mahangara Pallike 4.Bangalore Water and Sewage Board 5. Union of India 6. National Commission for Safai Karamcharis 7. Thamate