Nine years after a Public Interest Litigation said that over five lakh people were engaged in manual scavenging across the country, the government on Monday told the Supreme Court that a bill aimed at banning such practice will be introduced in Parliament soon.
"I have received written instructions that a bill is being introduced in Parliament in monsoon session which will take care of the entire matter," Additional Solicitor General Haren Raval told a bench headed by Chief Justice S H Kapadia.
"We are committed to it (eliminating manual scavenging). Wait till monsoon session," he further said before the bench, also comprising justices A K Patnaik and Swatanter Kumar.
However, when Raval replied in affirmative that the petition would become infructuous upon the passage of such bill, advocates K Parameshwar and Shomona Khanna, appearing for NGO Safai Karamchari Andolan, submitted that pendency of a Bill in Parliament is not relevant to the present proceedings.
They said the 2003 petition identifying the existence of around 5,77,228 manual scavengers across the country was for the implementation of the Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act, 1993 to eliminate manual scavenging.
The NGO said over the last nine years several orders have been passed by the court but the implementation has not been proper and the Uttarakhand government has failed to respond to the contempt notice issued in 2009.
The counsel appearing for Uttarakhand government said directions issued by the apex court has been complied with.
However, the bench said the state government will have to file a response to the contempt notice for alleged violation of the existing law of 1993.
The bench also noted that there were violation on the parts of other states and particularly asked Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Bihar and Jammu and Kashmir to be ready with their stand on eradicating manual scavenging.
The bench was told that though the Uttarakhand government in its affidavit on March 12, 2006, had said that there was no manual scavenging in the state, but the survey conducted bythe NGO found that it was still prevailing in the Municipal Boards of Haridwar, Udhamsingh Nagar (formerly known as Rudrapur) Dehradun and Pauri Garhwal and 288 people have been identified to be involved in such practice, according to the survey conducted till January.
The apex court on April 29, 2005, had directed the Centre and all state governments to verify and file affidavits "whether or not, in their department or corporation any manual scavenging is still being resorted to.
"If manual scavenging is still being resorted to, then that department or corporation to indicate with details what scheme it has for eliminating it and for rehabilitating the persons concerned and within what time frame," the court had said in its order.
The court had issued contempt notice to the Uttarakhand government in May 8, 2009.