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Manual scavenging: Court summons Principal Secretaries

By J. Venkatesan

NEW DELHI, SEPT. 13. The Supreme Court today directed the Principal Secretaries of seven States — Jammu and Kashmir, Gujarat, Assam, Delhi, Chhattisgarh, Manipur and Uttaranchal — to be present in the court on October 1 for their failure to file response to a petition seeking a ban on manual scavenging.

A Bench, consisting of Justice S.N. Variava and Justice H.K. Sema, gave the direction after it was found that the States had not filed their response despite reminders.

The court issued notice in January to the Centre, all the States and the Union Territories on a petition seeking firm action for the eradication of the degrading practice of "manual scavenging" in which over 12 lakh persons are engaged across the country and implement a scheme for their proper rehabilitation.

The petition filed by the convener of the Safai Karamchari Andolan, Bejawada Wilson, and the Chairperson, S.R. Sankaran, IAS (retired), and 13 other organisations and individuals sought a declaration that manual scavenging and operation of dry latrines was in violation of the fundamental rights of Article 14 (equality before law) Article 17 (abolition of untouchability) and Article 23 (right against exploitation).

The petitioners have also sought the implementation of the Employment of Manual Scavenging and Construction of Dry Latrines Prohibition Act 1993, which banned manual scavenging.

In its response, the Centre submitted that it had prepared a National Action Plan for the Total Eradication of Manual Scavenging by 2007.

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