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Manual Scavenging in India:Laws and Rulings



  Apr 22, 2024

Manual Scavenging in India:Laws and Rulings



What is manual scavenging?

Manual scavenging is the practice where individuals manually clean, carry, dispose of, or handle human excreta from dry latrines and sewers. It's a dehumanizing practice that has been legally banned in India due to its severe health risks and violation of human dignity.

What laws are in place to combat manual scavenging in India?

India has enacted several laws aimed at eradicating manual scavenging:

● The Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act, 1993

● The Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013.

These laws prohibit the employment of manual scavengers, the construction or maintenance of dry latrines, and mandate comprehensive measures for rehabilitation.

What challenges exist in enforcing these laws?

Despite the clear prohibitions, enforcement remains inconsistent. Challenges include inaccurate identification and underreporting of manual scavengers, lax enforcement by local authorities, and limited awareness among the affected communities about their rights under these laws.

What recent directives has the Supreme Court issued regarding manual scavenging?

The Supreme Court has issued directives to enhance the enforcement of laws against manual scavenging, including:

● Increasing compensation for victims.

● Strengthening the rehabilitation measures for manual scavengers and their families.

● Mandating better oversight and coordination among government bodies to ensure compliance.

How does the legal system address non-compliance?

Legal mechanisms involve penalties for non-compliance, but challenges in the judicial process can impede effective enforcement. For instance, issues in how complaints are filed and processed under the relevant acts can lead to dismissals of valid cases, as seen in specific high court judgments which misinterpreted statutory provisions, thereby undermining the intent of the legislation.

What was the error in the high court's interpretation of the PEMSR Act?

The high court erroneously interpreted the process required for filing complaints under the PEMSR Act, limiting it to magistrates and overlooking the role of the police in investigating cognizable offences under the Act. This interpretation contradicts established legal principles that emphasize a liberal understanding of welfare statutes to facilitate broader access to justice for victims.

What should be the correct approach to interpreting laws related to manual scavenging?

The interpretation should align with the legislative intent to provide effective remedies and justice to victims of manual scavenging. Courts should adopt a liberal interpretation that facilitates, rather than hinders, the application of the law. This approach supports the broader goal of eradicating manual scavenging and providing substantive justice and rehabilitation to the affected individuals.

These FAQs aim to clarify the complexities and legal framework surrounding the efforts to eradicate manual scavenging in India, highlighting recent judicial interpretations and the ongoing need for vigilant enforcement and liberal legal interpretation to protect vulnerable populations.




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