The Karnataka High Court on Monday directed the State government to respond to an incident in which a sweeper allegedly ended his life months after he was forced to clean a manhole with bare hands.
A Division Bench of headed by Chief Justice Abhay Shreeniwas Oka passed the direction after petitioner advocate, Clifton D Rozario filed a memo highlighting the incident.
The deceased had left behind a suicide note narrating his ordeal. The note revealed that he was forced to enter a manhole to clean it without safety gear or even a pair of gloves, the Court was told.
Accordingly, the Court asked the State to respond to the memo.
The Court was hearing a a batch of petitions seeking the abolition of the practice of manual scavenging in the State.
During the hearing, the bench also discussed the death of two manual scavengers, who had suffocated in a manhole in Karnataka’s Kalaburagi on January 28.
The High Court had earlier directed the State government to produce a report of the probe into the January 28 incident resulting in the deaths of two manual scavengers. Pursuant to that, a report had been filed by the Executive Engineer.
After going through the report, the Court observed that the report appeared to have been submitted without holding any inquiry.
“Prima facie it appears to us that the Executive Engineer at Kalaburagi without holding any inquiry has submitted the report that the worker of the contractors accidentally slipped into the manhole chamber and to save him other two workers of contractors entered the chamber. The report shows that no inquiry was held by the executive Engineer and Respondent 12, seems to have acted based on the report which is without any basis,” the Court said.
As the hearing progressed, the Court was informed that the State has filed its compliance report in response to the interim directions passed by the Court earlier.
The matter will be heard again on March 16.
The High Court had in December 2020, termed manual scavenging as a “most inhuman” practice and issued a slew of directions to ensure the proper implementation of the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013 (Manual Scavengers Act).