The Delhi high court on Monday took cognizance of the death of two people in the national capital allegedly while cleaning a sewer last week and directed registering a public interest litigation.
Taking cognizance on its own, a bench of Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma and Justice Subramonium Prasad issued notice to the Municipal Corporation of Delhi, Delhi government and Delhi Jal Board on the matter on the basis of a news report dated September 11, and also appointed senior advocate Rajshekhar Rao as the amicus curiae (friend of the court) to assist it.
“It is brought to the notice of this court that one sweeper and a security guard fell into a drainage as they were attempting to clean the clogged drainage…. Let a public interest litigation be registered in the matter. Mr Rajshekhar Rao, learned senior counsel, is appointed as amicus curiae to assist this court in the matter,” the bench said.
Chief Justice Sharma asked Rao to go through the news report and said, "I will give you the material which will help you out. There is a Supreme Court judgement on the subject which says that the moment the death takes place of a person who is manually doing this scavenging work, the family is entitled to (certain assistance)… plus a job to one of the members of the family.”
“Notice be issued to the Municipal Corporation of Delhi, the chief secretary (GNCTD) and the Delhi Jal Board,” the court ordered.
A sweeper and a security guard died on September 9 in Outer Delhi's Mundka area after they inhaled toxic gases inside a sewer they had gone down to clean, the police had said last week.
The two were identified as Rohit Chandiliya, 32, a private sweeper and resident of JJ Colony Bakkarwala, and Ashok, a 30-year-old security guard who was a resident of Jhajjar in Haryana, the police had said.
The agency had informed there was a complaint of sewer blockage in a society, Highway Apartment, and Chandilya was the first one to go down the sewer. But as soon as he inhaled the toxic fumes inside, he fell unconscious and fell down and subsequently, Ashok -- who went to rescue him -- also fell unconscious, a police officer had claimed.
A case under section 304A (causing death by negligence) of the IPC is being registered, it had added.
The matter will be heard next on September 21.
Manual scavenging is banned in India. However, as many as 347 people have died while cleaning sewers and septic tanks in the country in the last five years, with Uttar Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Delhi accounting for 40 per cent of these fatalities, Union Social Justice and Empowerment Minister Virendra Kumar had told the Lok Sabha in July this year.