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“Travesty of justice”: Karnataka HC takes exception to “zero conviction rate” in manual scavenging cases

By Rintu Mariam Biju      09 January, 2024 11:34 AM      0 Comments
Travesty of justice Karnataka HC takes exception to zero conviction rate in manual scavenging cases

BENGALURU: The Karnataka High Court took serious exception to the ‘zero conviction rate’ for the offence of manual scavenging in the State.  The Court noted that those who were involved in going against the State government’s ban against manual scavenging, weren’t bearing the penal consequences. 


“How is it 'zero conviction?'... Why no conviction? What is the remedy? Where is that action?... What a travesty of justice. We are not on compensation. Why not even a single conviction? What is your framework? How are you (state government) going to do this? The makers of our Constitution will shiver in their graves with the things we are doing”, a Bench of Chief Justice PB Varale and Justice Krishna Dixit asked, during the hearing yesterday. 


The Court also pointed out that it was perhaps, the lack of seriousness of lawyers and prosecutors that actually aided those people who still facilitate manual scavenging. “Where’s the action?” particularly against concerned substandard public prosecutors- this was the big question that Bench posed before the State government. 


The Bench was hearing a PIL plea which was initiated on the direction of the court after it came across certain news reports regarding the continued practise of manual scavenging in Karnataka. The reports pointed to deaths in manholes, social ostracism, and lack of compensation, among other persisting issues. 


The Bench also didn’t seem quite pleased with how the court had to set everything in motion to set things right, in terms of public issues. The Court opined that the State must come forward with appropriate measures. 


"Unless some secretary is imprisoned, nothing will improve in our State”, the Bench added. 


As the hearing gained momentum, the Court also took note 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, in spite of a provision to that effect. 


Amicus curiae Sridhar Prabhu stated that the provisions of the SC/ST Act must be invoked to ensure accountability. Only awarding compensation won’t be sufficient curb this social evil, he said. 


Affirming this argument, the Bench noted that section 3 (j) of the SC/ST Act was not invoked even in the recent criminal case lodged over the deaths of certain persons in a manual scavenging incident, last month. 


On the introduction of technology to replace manual scavenging, Advocate General Shashi Kiran Shetty assured the Court that the State government is in the process of securing technology and necessary machinery in a phased manner. 


The Court then asked both the State and Central government to file detailed affidavits in the matter. The case will next come up on January 30.



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