Why Madras HC’s Observations on Sweepers/Cleaners/Scavengers are Disturbing

Indian judiciary has been instrumental in enlargement of the rights of folks. In this spirit, whilst coping with a case involving the problems curious about the marginalized sections of our society, a pass judgement on must all the time stay in the back of his/her thoughts the constitutional objective of an egalitarian social order. It is on this background that we will have to take a look at and scrutinize a judgment delivered by way of Madras High Court in Mahalakshmi v. State of Tamil Nadu (10 January, 2018).

The case curious about a plea for regularization of the services and products of the petitioner and her husband in Anna University College of Engineering, Dindigul, with all carrier advantages. The petitioner and her husband, belonging to Scheduled Castes, had been appointed as sweepers/cleaners. However, the top court docket used the time period “scavengers” within the judgment to explain the character in their activity. It used to be alleged that the petitioner and her husband had been pressured by way of the main of the varsity to return to her space to do home works and to scrub the bathrooms in her space and wash the clothes/interior clothes of her husband and youngsters. It used to be additional alleged that after the petitioner and her husband had been doing cleansing paintings within the faculty, the main didn’t give any protection equipments to the scavengers and so they had been pressured to scrub the drains and bathrooms with out following the required necessities underneath the provisions of the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and Rehabilitation Act, 2013. It used to be additionally alleged that the main had scolded the petitioner the use of her caste title.

The top court docket rejected their declare of regularization of carrier. Irrespective of the deserves of the declare of regularization, it’s the court docket’s statement about cleaners/sweepers/scavengers, which are stressful. The court docket held that since each, the main and the petitioner, belonged to Scheduled Caste (SC) neighborhood, there’s no probability of scolding the petitioner the use of caste names. The court docket discovered this criticism made by way of the petitioner in opposition to the main “an utter falsehood”. The court docket additional held that for the reason that petitioner used to be serving as a ‘daily rated’ worker and her nature of labor is to scrub the premises, she can not exceptionally make a criticism that the main had pressured her to scrub the bathrooms in her space and wash her clothes and interior clothes of her husband. The court docket used to be of the view “when a sweeper/scavenger is employed, he/she has to clean up the toilet also”. The top court docket imposed a superb of Rs. 25,000/- to be paid by way of the petitioner to the main without delay for submitting a “false” declare.

The wide observations of the top court docket on scavenging mirror the failure of the top court docket to know the social evil of guide scavenging. The court docket’s view is myopic when it holds that since each the petitioner and the main belonged to the SC neighborhood, there can’t be any caste-based feedback. In an incisive research, Diane Coffey and Dean Spears have mentioned the extraordinary exploitation, exclusion and humiliation that individuals from the guide scavengers’ castes have confronted for generations: [M]annual scavengers are thought to be the lowest-ranking a few of the Dalit castes. The discrimination they face is in most cases even worse than that which Dalits from non-scavenging castes face” (Where India Goes, 2017, web page 78). The social truth of India is that manual-scavenging castes face discrimination throughout the Dalit neighborhood as smartly. Their lives mirror exclusion and deprivation. The guide scavengers have other caste names in several portions of the rustic: Bhangis in Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh, Phakis in Andhra Pradesh and Sikkaliars in Tamil Nadu. A learn about titled “Manual Scavenging As Social Exclusion: A Case Study” printed in Economic & Political Weekly (June 27, 2009) has aptly said that: “These communities are invariably positioned on the backside of the caste hierarchy in addition to dalit sub-caste hierarchy. Refusal to accomplish such guide process results in bodily abuse and a social boycott”. The learn about additionally paperwork that scavengers face a problem in taking on different occupations.

Further, the feedback of the top court docket on the character of activity of a sweeper/cleaner are opposite to the precise of a person to reside with dignity, which is implicit within the elementary rights assured in Part III of the Constitution. By maintaining sweeper/cleaner hired to scrub the premises could also be sure to scrub bathrooms and clothes and that he/she can not whinge another way, the top court docket has recommended a type of “forced labour” which is against the law underneath Article 23 of the Constitution. In the landmark judgment in PUDR v. Union of India (1982), Justice PN Bhagwati had outlined “forced labour” as follows: “Any issue which deprives an individual of a collection of possible choices and compels him to undertake one explicit plan of action might correctly be considered ‘force’ and if labour or carrier is pressured on account of such ‘force’, it might be ‘forced labour’.” The top court docket failed to know this elementary working out of the constitutional provisions. To compel an individual, with out his/her consent, to scrub bathrooms and wash clothes, even though he/she has entered into a freelance to scrub premises, is a type of “forced labour” prohibited underneath Article 23.

The reasoning of the top court docket simplest displays that discriminations have develop into so commonplace and entrenched in our pondering that no person reveals the rest abysmal. The feedback and the maintaining of the top court docket condemn a piece of our personal folks, who are pressured to the “profession” of cleansing, sweeping and scavenging. Such reasoning additional finds that the disadvantaged sections of our society lack make stronger from the establishments of our democracy in dwelling a dignified lifestyles.

Anurag Bhaskar is an alumnus of Dr. Ram Manohar Lohiya National Law University, Lucknow. He may also be contacted at anuragbhaskar007@gmail.com and tweets at @anuragbhaskar_ 

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Updated: March 14, 2018 — 4:21 am
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