New Delhi, October 20, 2023 – In an emphatic ruling, the Supreme Court of India issued a definitive directive to the Union Government and all State Governments, emphasizing the urgent need for the complete eradication of the deeply entrenched and deplorable practice of manual scavenging. This historic decision reflects the Court’s stern disapproval of the continuation of manual scavenging in the country and its commitment to upholding the constitutional principles of equality, freedom, and human dignity.

The Supreme Court, comprising Justices S Ravindra Bhat and Aravind Kumar, expressed its grave concern about the perpetuation of manual scavenging and laid out several crucial directives to address this pressing issue. The most noteworthy aspects of the judgment include:

1. Increased Compensation for Sewer Deaths: The Court mandated a substantial increase in compensation for sewer deaths to a sum of ₹30 lakhs.

2. Enhanced Compensation for Permanent Disablement: In cases of permanent disablement resulting from sewer operations, the compensation has been directed to be increased to ₹20 lakhs.

3. Compensation for Other Forms of Disablement: The Court set a minimum compensation of not less than 10 lakhs for other forms of disablement arising from manual scavenging.

The Court further delineated a comprehensive set of fourteen directives addressed to both the Union and State Governments for the effective Implementation of the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act 2013. These directives aim to holistically combat manual scavenging and support the rehabilitation of victims and their families. They include provisions for scholarships and skill development programs.

The case, Dr. Balram Singh v. Union of India, was initiated as a Public Interest Litigation challenging the employment of manual scavengers. The judgment is a significant step toward ending this inhumane practice.

In the course of delivering this historic judgment, Justice Bhat invoked the words of Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, highlighting the battle for freedom and the reclaiming of human dignity as a pivotal objective. Justice Bhat emphasized that all sections of society, including the Union and State Governments, are obligated to ensure the complete eradication of manual scavenging. The judgment underscored the commitment enshrined in the Constitution to uphold the values of equality and fraternity.

Justice Bhat reiterated that the value of dignity and fraternity is pivotal and that, to achieve true equality, the darkness that has plagued generations of marginalized individuals must be dispelled. The Constitution emphasizes that dignity and fraternity are paramount, as they form the foundation upon which all other liberties stand.

This landmark judgment is a significant stride toward rectifying a longstanding injustice and eradicating the appalling practice of manual scavenging. The Supreme Court’s decision holds great importance, both in terms of its impact on individuals forced to engage in this degrading practice and its alignment with the core principles of India’s Constitution.

The matter will be monitored closely and is scheduled to be revisited on February 1, 2024, as part of the ongoing effort to combat manual scavenging and ensure justice for those affected by this dehumanizing practice.

The complete and detailed directives issued by the Supreme Court will be available once the judgment is officially uploaded.

This judgment serves as a clarion call to society and the government to stand united in the battle against manual scavenging, ensuring the fulfillment of constitutional promises of equality, justice, and dignity for all.

Understanding the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act 2013

The Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act 2013 aims to eliminate the degrading practice of manual scavenging and provide for the rehabilitation of manual scavengers. The Act prohibits the engagement of individuals in manual scavenging and provides for measures to identify and rehabilitate manual scavengers. The Act also includes provisions for compensation and support to manual scavengers and their dependents.

The Role of the Supreme Court

The Supreme Court of India plays a pivotal role in interpreting and upholding the Constitution of India and ensuring justice for all citizens. Its decisions and directives often have far-reaching consequences for the protection of fundamental rights, social justice, and the well-being of the people. This landmark decision against manual scavenging underscores the Court’s commitment to combating systemic injustices and promoting human dignity and equality.

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