The Gauhati High Court disposed of a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) pending since 2020 assailing the notification dated 18.08.2018 of the Department of Welfare of Plain Tribes and Backward Classes of the Government of Assam by which a Committee as required under Section 26(1) of the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013 had been constituted.
The petitioner brings it to the notice of the Court of the provisions of Section 26(1)(i) of the Act of 2013 which inter-alia provides as extracted:
“26(1)(i) not more than four social workers belonging to organization working for the prohibition of manual scavenging and rehabilitation of manual scavengers, or, representing the scavenger community, resident in the State, to be nominated by the State Government, two of whom shall be women;”
The Division Bench of Justice Achintya Malla Bujor Barua and Justice Robin Phukan observed that Section 26(1)(i) makes it discernable that in respect of social worker members of the Committee two of them shall be woman.
The petitioner pointed out that in the Committee under the notification dated 18.08.2018 in respect of the social worker members three of the members are men whereas there is only woman and therefore, there is an aberration of the requirement of Section 26(1)(i) of the Act of 2013 inasmuch as two women members are not included in the Committee.
Prima facie the Bench noted that the requirement of Section 26 (1)(i) of the Act of 2013 had not been followed while constituting the Committee under Section 26(1) by the Notification dated 18.08.2018 in respect of the social worker members.
In the circumstance, the High Court is of the view that the interest of justice would be met on a direction being issued to the Commissioner and Secretary to the Government of Assam in the Department of Social Justice and Empowerment to do the needful to bring in the rectification. The High Court took note that the Department of Welfare of Plain Tribes and Backward Classes had in the meantime been bifurcated into two departments and the subject matter involved in this writ petition would now be under the Department of Social Justice and Empowerment.
As some change may be incorporated in the social welfare members in the Section 26(1) Committee under the Act of 2013, the Court further provide that the Commissioner and Secretary of the Social Justice and Empowerment Department while doing the needful shall also give due opportunity to all the three male social worker members of the Committee before passing any order which shall be in conformity with the requirement of Section 26(1) (i) of the Act of 2013. The Commissioner and Secretary to do the needful within a period of two months from the date of receipt of certified copy of this order and the High Court reiterated and clarified that whatever corrective measure is taken, if it affects the existing male social worker members of the Committee in any manner, the same be done by only giving opportunity to the said members but in doing so the Commissioner and Secretary to also take note of the requirements of Section 26(1)(i) of the Act of 2013 .