Delhi HC orders ₹30 lakh compensation to families of 3 deceased sanitation workers

A Supreme Court order in 2023 increased the compensation payable to the dependents of manual scavenging victims


Published May 19, 2024 | 7:49 PMUpdatedMay 19, 2024 | 7:50 PM

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The Delhi High Court recently directed the city authorities to pay ₹30 lakh compensation each to the families of three sanitation workers who died during manual scavenging in 2017.

The HC allowed the petition by the family members seeking higher ex gratia following a Supreme Court order in 2023 which increased the compensation payable to the dependents of the victims who lost their lives in manual scavenging to ₹30 lakh from the existing ₹10 lakh.

The family members said in the petition that the three sanitation workers died in August 2017 while cleaning a drain in Lajpat Nagar. The plea said the deceased were engaged by a Delhi Jal Board sub-contractor.

The petitioners said that after they died, a compensation of ₹10 lakh was awarded to the family members. However, they prayed that the amount be increased to ₹30 lakh.

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Delhi High Court’s ruling

“It can be seen that the directions issued by the Supreme Court were expressly made applicable to all the statutory bodies including corporations, railways, cantonments as well as the agencies under its control.

“Moreover, the Union and State governments were directed to ensure that rehabilitation measures were taken concerning sewage workers, including the families of those who have lost their lives. Specifically, it was directed that the compensation of ₹10 lakh that was given to the family members of the deceased workers be enhanced to ₹30 lakh,” Justice Sachin Datta said.

The High Court said necessarily, the ameliorative directions, strictures and the embargo imposed by the Supreme Court apply to the Delhi Jal Board (DJB) as also to any agency that may be engaged by the board within any part of Delhi in connection with the work relating to the collection of sewage or carrying out connected works.

“Any disregard or violation thereto would invite strict consequences” as envisaged in the apex court verdict, it said.

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From ₹10 lakh to ₹30 lakh

Considering the reasoning given by the apex court, it would be a travesty if the entitlement of the family members of the deceased scavenging workers is confined to ₹10 lakh, the HC said.

“The same would defeat the directions of the Supreme Court to enhance the compensation to ₹30 lakh on the basis that the previously fixed compensation of ₹10 lakh was fixed as far back as in the year 1993 and could not be considered to be an adequate compensation,” it said, adding that the family members of the deceased sanitation workers are entitled to a compensation of ₹30 lakh.

The HC further ordered that the remaining amount be paid to the family members within eight weeks.

Observing that manual scavengers have lived in bondage, systematically trapped in inhuman conditions for a long time, the Supreme Court had in October last year asked the Centre and state governments to completely eradicate manual scavenging across the country.

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Passing a slew of directions for the benefit of people involved in manual scavenging, it had asked the central and state governments to pay ₹30 lakh as compensation to the next of kin of those who die while cleaning sewers.

“The court hereby directs the Union and the States to ensure that the compensation for sewer deaths is increased (given that the previous amount fixed, that is, ₹10 lakh) was made applicable from 1993. The current equivalent of that amount is ₹30 lakh. This shall be the amount to be paid, by the concerned agency, that is, the Union, the Union Territory or the State as the case may be. In other words, compensation for sewer deaths shall be ₹30 lakh,” the Supreme Court had ordered.

It also said that the authorities needed to take measures for the rehabilitation of the victims and their families.

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