The Madras High Court on Tuesday directed the State government to take up with the Centre a matter relating to necessary amendment to the Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act.

The First Bench, comprising Chief Justice M.Y. Eqbal and Justice T.S. Sivagnanam, gave the direction while passing further orders on a contempt petition filed by A. Narayanan of Virugambakkam, Editor of ‘Paadam' magazine.

The contempt petition pertained to the alleged disobedience of the High Court orders for imposing a complete ban on manual scavenging of septic tanks.

When the matter came up, Government Advocate M. Sneha produced a copy of a letter of January 25 in which the State government had requested the Union government to make suitable amendments to the legislation for effective implementation of the court directions.

Following this, the court gave the direction to the State government so that the amendment could be made as expeditiously as possible. It directed the Government Advocate to serve a copy of the letter to Additional Solicitor-General of India, M. Ravindran, who was also requested to pursue the matter with the Centre.

In his letter to the Secretary, Union Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment, the Tamil Nadu Principal Secretary, Municipal Administration and Water Supply, K. Ashok Vardhan Shetty, cited the High Court order and said based on the direction, the government had issued comprehensive guidelines.

He said the present definition of Manual Scavenger in the Act meant “a person engaged in or employed for; manually carrying human excreta.”

The definition could be modified as “a person engaged in or employed for manually carrying human excreta, manually cleaning septic tank, removal of blocks in the sewer system (without protection of safety gadgets.)”

The Bench said the matter would be listed for further hearing after eight weeks.