Courts cannot be reckless in receiving sheets of paper without any basis: Madras HC on PIL against Manual Scavenging

Mar4,2021 #Madras High Court

Sushree Mohanty

The Madras High Court declined to hear any pleadings concerning the recent deaths of individuals because of manual scavenging unless it is produced with a proper application.

While the issue raised is of serious concern, the Court, however, noticed that it cannot continue to accept submissions on the matter based only on oral pleadings and documents that have been recorded with no premise or ascribing it to any individual who can be held responsible.

“While court should not be tolerant in abstaining from procedural bottlenecks, courts cannot be careless in receiving documents of paper with no premise thereto or anybody assuming liability for the assertions inferred in them,” the Court stated.

The Division Bench comprising Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice Senthilkumar Ramamoorthy was hearing an appeal which was an additional part for a group of Public Interest Litigation (PIL) petitions moved against the act of manual scavenging.

The advocate representing the applicant, Safai Karamchari Andolan, submitted a hearing of the matter that fourteen people had died last year while they were engaged in the work of manual scavenging.

He added that six other individuals are reported dead in recent past months.

The issue was raised before the Hon’ble Court citing concern over the public authority as well as contractors who continued to engage individuals in the task of manual scavenging. In the matter, certain charts substantiating the claims were additionally submitted before the Court.

The Court however took exception to the presented papers on the ground that they were unattributed to any individual who can be answerable for such correspondence to the bench.

During the proceeding, the Bench additionally opined that if there were any infringement of the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013 or of court orders regarding the matter, a contempt of court application could likewise have been moved in the case.

In its order, the bench stressed that the matter raised is serious and therefore if any authoritative bodies are discovered to be indulged in such practices, the officials concerned need to be investigated and held liable for the act.

However, the Bench maintained its standing that issues of such genuine concern cannot be deliberated and decided only dependent on oral submissions or reports with no individual assuming liability for what is imparted to court.

The Court additionally directed the applicant to file appropriate documents substantiating the claims in the matter. The order stated

“It will be available to the candidate who is upholding a vulnerable cause to record a suitable application which can be taken cognizance of by the court. Just because the applicant is upholding the reason for people who might not have too many to support them doesn’t mean the applicant can jump the line in court or the safeguards can be dispensed in such a case,”.

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