New Delhi, Mar 22: The Supreme Court on Monday said it cannot compel state governments to file their response on the issue of manual scavenging, but can still proceed with the hearing in the matter.
Advocate Ashima Mandla, representing NGO Criminal Justice Society of India, headed by senior advocate K.T.S. Tulsi, submitted before the bench that one manual scavenger dies every five days and this matter had also come up in the Rajya Sabha.
She added that notice was issued in the matter on February last year, and there were more than 40 respondents, but only 13 have submitted their counter-affidavits in the matter.
In February 2019, the apex court had asked Chief Secretaries of all states and Union Territories to submit status report on the number of manual scavengers employed directly or indirectly since 1993, when the practice was declared illegal.
A bench headed by Chief Justice S.A. Bobde and comprising Justices A.S. Bopanna and V. Ramasubramanian said: “We cannot compel people to file counter affidavit.”
The bench, however, added that the court will proceed and draw adverse inference against those who have not submitted their response.
“Put up the matter for hearing in the third week of August, 2021,” the top court said in its order.
The top court had noted the issues with manual scavenging was “serious” and asked all the states and the UTs to file their response within four weeks. Advocate Fuzail Ahmad Ayyubi filed the plea for the NGO seeking the number of manual scavengers who have died since 1993.
The plea had sought direction to all the states, UTs and the Indian Railways to investigate the death of manual scavengers and initiate criminal proceedings under IPC’s Section 304 (punishment for culpable homicide not amounting to murder) against authorities concerned or contractors in connection with the employment of manual scavengers.