CHENNAI: Taking a serious view of deaths occurring due to manual scavenging across the State, the Madras High Court warned of initiating criminal proceedings against heads of civic bodies such as corporations and municipalities, if deaths occur within their jurisdiction. The court also directed the State to file a detailed report on the steps initiated to prevent manual scavenging in every district.
The bench passed the order on a plea moved by the Safai Karamchari Andolan that 14 people had died due to manual scavenging in Tamil Nadu in 2020 alone and six more have died this year. “Despite passing orders and filing detailed status reports till December 2019, the practice still prevails and people are dying in pits,” the first bench of Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy observed while passing the interim order.
The court expressed its disappointment over the spate of manual scavenging accidents occurring constantly. “It is high time that heads of corporations and municipalities are held personally liable for the deaths occurring within their territories,” it said.
“Any manual scavenging works will result in the commissioner or chairpersons or the controlling authority facing criminal charges and subject to immediate arrest,” it emphasised. The court also directed the government to file a detailed report within six weeks from each of the districts, which includes the steps taken. The court also directed the State to provide adequate compensation to the families of persons who lost their lives.