SC slams Centre for fooling people, not banning scavenging

The Supreme Court today slammed the Centre for "fooling" people and not banning the manual scavenging despite its repeated promises that it would amend the Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act to eliminate the practice.

"We don’t want this type of vague affidavit. This shows you (Centre) are not serious. You are saying the same thing for the last six months. You are fooling the people of this country.

"It is really unfortunate that even 65 years after the Independence, the manual scavenging continues in this country. The Directive Principles of State Policy mandates us to prohibit manual scavenging but you are not serious in introducing an appropriate legislation," a bench of justices H L Dattu and C K Prasad observed.

Dissatisfied with the Centre’s affidavit, the bench asked Additional Solicitor General Haren Raval to inform the court on August 27 whether the Bill would be introduced in the monsoon session so that it could pass appropriate orders.

The bench was dealing with the appeal filed by the Centre against a Madras High Court order of June 2011 warning that if it failed to amend the law within two months, the court would direct personal appearance of any of the high dignitaries, be it, from the PMO Secretariat or other departments.

The apex court while staying the order issued notice to the petitioner A Narayanan of Virugambakkam, on whose PIL the high court had issued the directions.

Raval told the bench that the Cabinet note was ready for bringing amendments to the Act and once the Cabinet approves the amendments, a Bill would be introduced.

ASJ Raval told the court that the bill was to be introduced "in all likelihood," but he could not "give an assurance as the matter has to be approved by the Cabinet."

The apex court said "the petitioner informs us that 15 workers had died in septic tanks and manholes in Tamil Nadu alone in last 18 months.

What action are you taking? This matter has been pending in this court for more than a year. We hear only assurances, but no action seems to have been taken."

During the last hearing in March, Raval had told the court that the government would bring a comprehensive legislation on emancipation of sanitary workers involved in all forms of manual scavenging, sewerage cleaning, septic tank cleaning etc within a time frame in the monsoon session.

Petitioner Narayanan also drew the court's attention to the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's speech last year about eliminating manual scavenging within 6 months.

He said though more than six months has passed, nothing has been done. He pointed out that newer forms of manual scavenging such as sewer manhole and septic tank cleaning was going on. The bench posted the matter for further hearing on August 27.

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