The Madras High Court on Wednesday declined to entertain allegations concerning recent deaths due to manual scavenging in the absence of an appropriate application.
While the matters complained of were extremely serious, the Court noted that it cannot proceed only on the basis of oral submissions and sheets of paper filed without any basis or attributing it to any person who can be held responsible.
“While court should be lenient in dispensing with procedural bottlenecks, courts cannot be reckless in receiving sheets of paper without any basis thereto or anyone taking responsibility for the statements implied therein,” the Court said.
The Bench of Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy was hearing a petition which was part of a batch of pending Public Interest Litigation (PIL) petitions moved against the practice of manual scavenging.
The counsel appearing for the petitioner, Safai Karamchari Andolan, submitted today that fourteen persons had died while engaging in manual scavenging in the year 2020. He added that six more persons died in the first two months of 2021 alone. Concern was raised that the government continued engaging manual scavengers or contractors employing manual scavengers. In this regard, certain charts were also submitted before the Court.
However, the Bench today took exception to these papers being unattributed to any person who can be responsible for such communication to the Court.
During the course of the hearing, Bench also orally opined that if there were any violations of the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013 and court orders concerning the same, a contempt application could also have been moved in the matter.
The matters complained of are extremely serious and if local bodies are found to be indulging in such practices, the officials responsible need to be hauled up and appropriately dealt with, the High Court emphasised in its order.
However, the Bench added that such serious matters cannot be taken note of on the basis of oral submissions and sheets of paper without any person taking responsibility of what is communicated to court.
The Court, therefore, confined its order to granting the petitioner liberty to file an appropriate application in the matter.
“It will be open to the petitioner who is espousing a venerable cause to file an appropriate application which can be taken cognisance of by court. Merely because the petitioner is espousing the cause of persons who may not have too many to support them does not mean the petitioner can jump the queue in court or the usual safeguards can be dispensed with in such a case,” the order said.