The Karnataka High Court directed the state government to ensure that all local authorities implement the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act 2013 in the state of Karnataka.
The Court further ordered that the number of FIRs filed under the Act and the records of the accused, convicted, pending trial, acquitted cases should also be filed by the state government.
The division bench of Chief Justice Abhay Oka and Justice S Vishwajith Shetty passed the order after hearing PILs filed by the Karnataka High Court Legal Services Committee and All India Council of Trade Unions (AICTU), seeking a direction to the state and Central governments to implement the Act, and also directions issued by the Supreme Court in the case of Safai Karamchari Andolan and others.
The bench remarked, “Right of a citizen to live with dignity is an integral part of the fundamental rights guaranteed to the citizens under Article 21 of the Constitution of India. The preamble of the Constitution shows that the Constitution seeks to protect the dignity of an individual. There can be no dispute that manual scavenging is most inhuman and it infringes the fundamental rights guaranteed under Article 21.”
“The social welfare department has relied upon data published by the Government of India, which shows there are 53,15,715 insanitary latrines in the state. This indicates a failure on the part of local authorities (municipality, panchayat and Railways) and the State Government has to implement the provisions,” the Court added.
The government should take help from NGOs and the Karnataka State Legal Services Authority to conduct the campaign in rural areas for awareness campaign to eliminate open defecation and ensure that all local bodies comply with the obligation, ordered the High Court.