Irked by non-compliance of its earlier orders of paying Rs 10 lakh each to widows of three scavengers who died while cleaning a septic tank at a private society in Govandi in 2019, the Bombay High Court has said that it will haul up the state government for contempt of court.
A vacation bench of Justices Shahrukh Kathawalla and Abhay Ahuja on Friday directed the government to give an undertaking that they will pay compensation to the widows by November 18, failing which they would have to face contempt of court.
The HC asked the cheques to be deposited within a day (by today) or they would ask the principal secretary to appear through video conference.
On September 17, the HC had directed the government to pay the widows within four weeks. It had also asked the government to conduct a survey to identify manual scavengers across the state after the enactment of the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act in 2013. The government had also been asked whether steps were taken towards their rehabilitation.
Besides, the court has also sought details of manual scavengers who have died at work since 1993 and whether the state government has awarded any compensation to their families.
During the hearing on Friday, the advocate for the widows, Isha Singh said that the court had even sought the status of the FIR lodged by the Govandi police station in the case of the petitioners’ husbands’ deaths. However, they had approached the vacation court only for the disbursal of compensation.
Additional government pleader Poornima Kantharia informed the court that they needed more time as the papers were pending with the finance department.
Kantharia said her office has been following up with the government since two months but to no avail. To this, the judges said they were aware that the government doesn’t act unless hauled up.
The government gave an undertaking that they would pay compensation to the three women by November 18. The HC has kept the matter on November 18 at 5 pm to show compliance.
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