Drain deaths: HC orders payout of ₹10 lakh each

The Delhi High Court has directed Delhi State Industrial and Infrastructure Development Corporation Ltd (DSIIDC) to pay ₹10 lakh compensation each to the families of two manual scavengers who died while cleaning a sewer in Bawana Industrial Area here in 2011.

The court said the DSIIDC, which is responsible for developing and providing industrial infrastructure facilities, should have taken necessary steps to ensure that sewers are not opened for cleaning purposes by anyone.

Justice V. Kameswar Rao said any mishap suggests a lapse on the part of the DSIIDC and directed it to pay the amount to the wife and mother of victims Tilak Ram and Bhagwan Singh respectively within three months.

“In view of the prohibition, the DSIIDC should have taken necessary steps to ensure that the sewers are not opened for cleaning purposes by anybody.

Any mishap occurring surely will suggest a lapse on the part of DSIIDC,” Justice Rao said.

“Moreover, the grant of compensation will not await a decision as to who was negligent to compel the deceased persons to go into the sewer lines. The liability being strict, this court is of the view that the DSIIDC shall pay an amount of ₹10 lakh each to the petitioners [families],” the judge said.

It, however, granted liberty to DSIIDC to claim the money from the person who will be held guilty for the crime in the FIR registered in October 2011.

According to the families, the victims had stepped into a blocked sewer for cleaning but lost consciousness after inhaling gases in the duct due to non-supply of safety equipment, masks and oxygen cylinder by the contractors, and died on the spot in 2011.

Sole breadwinners

The families added that the victims were the sole breadwinners and that they have been living in poverty after Mr. Ram and Mr. Singh’s deaths.

The court noted that there was “complete prohibition from engagement or employment for hazardous cleaning of a sewer or a septic tanks” under the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and Their Rehabilitation Act.

Plea rejected

The court rejected the plea of the DSIIDC that neither it nor any of its contractors had engaged the two victims for cleaning of the sewer lines.

It said this will not absolve it of the obligation to pay compensation if a person dies cleaning the same and noted that unfortunately, the authorities have denied their obligation to pay damages.

“The compulsion of the dead persons was to earn some remuneration and having died in the course of earning remuneration, someone must be held responsible for the negligence, which resulted in their death,” the court said.

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Printable version | Jan 27, 2022 11:49:13 AM |

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