“Despite Law, They’re Forced”: High Court After 2 Die Cleaning Delhi Sewer

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The Delhi High Court today lamented the death of two persons who inhaled toxic gases inside a sewer in the national capital earlier this month and observed that despite there being laws, scavenging work continues to be performed.
A bench headed by Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma, who was hearing public interest litigation (PIL) initiated on its own based on a news report of the incident, granted time to the Delhi Development Authority (DDA) to state its stand.

A sweeper and a security guard died on September 9 in Outer Delhi’s Mundka area after they inhaled toxic gases inside a sewer.

When the sweeper had gone down to clean the sewer, he fainted and the guard followed to rescue him and he also fell unconscious, the police had said.

The two men were taken to a hospital where they were declared brought dead.

“The matter pertains to the death of a scavenger and despite all the laws, they were forced to do this,” the bench also comprising Justice Subramonium Prasad observed on Tuesday.

Senior advocate Rajshekhar Rao, the amicus curiae in the case, told the court that as recorded in an earlier order passed by the high court in another case, between 2012 and 2017, there were over 800 cases of deaths of safai karamcharis in the city.

Delhi government counsel Santosh Kumar Tripathi said that an FIR has already been registered concerning the incident and “the executing agency should be made liable”.

On the last hearing, the court was informed by the counsel for Delhi Jal Board (DJB) that the area where the incident took place was under DDA and even the sweeper was an employee of DDA.

The lawyer for DDA sought time from the court to seek instructions on the PIL. The court listed the case for further hearing on October 6.

On September 12, the high court had taken suo motu cognisance of the death of the two persons based on a news report and directed that a plea be registered on the issue.

The bench had said, “There is a Supreme Court judgement on the subject which says that the moment the death takes place of a person who is manually doing this scavenging work, the family is entitled to (certain financial assistance)… plus a job to one of the members of the family.”

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