The High Court of Karnataka on Monday hauled up the state government and sought to know why it had failed to secure even a single conviction in cases related to manual scavenging in the state.
The HC also took cognisance of the fact that the Scheduled Caste and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, is usually not invoked in cases registered against those employing manual scavengers, though such a provision was present.
A bench of Chief Justice Prasanna B Varale and Justice Krishna S Dixit was hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) initiated on the direction of the court based on news reports about manual scavenging in Karnataka.
The HC has adjourned the hearing to January 30 with the central and state governments expected to submit their response to the petition.
During the hearing today, advocate Sridhar Prabhu, appointed as the amicus curiae in the case to assist the court, submitted that the SC/ST Act must be invoked against the accused in such cases.
Despite the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013, the court noted that the accused managed to get away easily. It was possible only because the cases were not being handled seriously by the prosecution and government advocates.
“What action you have taken against the lawyers, your Public Prosecutors? We have conviction for very insignificant matters. But when it comes to this, where is the action? What action have you taken against the concerned substandard public prosecutors? How is it zero conviction? What is the remedy? What a travesty of justice. Why not even a single conviction? What is your framework?” it asked the government.
“Makers of the Constitution will shiver in their graves with the things we are doing,” the Court observed.
Voicing concern over the government inaction in such cases, the HC said, “Unless some secretary is imprisoned, nothing will improve in our State.”
The amicus curiae submitted that apart from rehabilitation of those engaged in manual scavenging, technology for replacing manual scavenging should be introduced.
The Advocate General, appearing on behalf of the State, said the government was in the process of securing machinery for the purpose which is being introduced.
Another PIL challenging the use of school children to clean toilets came up before the court which was clubbed with the present case. GMS