SC raps govt for not giving safety gear to manual scavengers

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New Delhi, Sep 18 (IANS) Observing that caste discrimination still exists in society, and people involved in cleaning manholes, drains, etc. are dying, the Supreme Court on Wednesday pulled up the Centre and State governments for not providing protective gear to them.

The court’s remarks came while hearing the Centre’s plea seeking the recall of a 2018 judgment which virtually diluted the stringent provisions of immediate arrest and no anticipatory bail for the accused on a complaint filed under the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act.

A three-judge bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra criticised the governments and said that, unfortunately, caste discrimination continues to prevail in the society even after 70 years of Independence.

The bench also said that it is the “most uncivilised and inhuman situation where people involved in manual scavenging are dying everyday and no protective gears are provided to them and no action is taken against the authorities.”

“What have you done for manual scavenging? In no other country, people enter manholes without protective gears. What have you done about it?,” the bench asked.

He also pointed out that untouchability is still being practiced in this country as no one shakes hands or wants to be with the people involved in such kind of cleaning activities.

The bench opined that the conditions should be improved.

The bench, meanwhile, reserved order on the Centre’s plea seeking recall of its 2018 judgment, the case it was originally hearing.

The Supreme Court on Friday had referred the Centre’s plea on the 2018 judgment to a larger Bench. The Centre had stated that the judgment diluting the stringent provision of the SC/ST (Prevention of Atrocities) Act had “seriously affected their (SC/ST) morale and confidence in the ability of the state to protect them”.

The apex court in its March 20 judgement had said: “…in absence of any other independent offence calling for arrest, in respect of offences under the Atrocities Act, no arrest may be effected without the permission of appointing authority in case of public servant or that of Senior Superintendent of Police in case of general public”. The court had said it was providing the safeguard “in view of acknowledged abuse of law of arrest” under the Act. “It’s necessary to express concern that working of the Atrocities Act should not result in perpetuating casteism, which can have an adverse impact on integration of the society and the constitutional values,” it said.

–IANS

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