Employees can’t be forced to work under new management: Supreme Court

Supreme Court of India

PTI NEWS

NEW DELHI: Employees cannot be compelled to work under a new management and are entitled to retirement or retrenchment benefits, the Supreme Court has held.  The apex court rejected the argument of Philip’s India Ltdthat since the employees had neither retired nor retrenched, hence they were not entitled to the benefits. “It is settled law that without consent, workmen cannot be forced to work under different management and in that event, those workmen are entitled to retirement/retrenchment compensation in terms of the Act.”In view of the same, we are of the view that the workmen are entitled to the benefit of such direction and it is the obligation on the part of the management – Philip’s India Ltd., to comply with the same,” the apex court said. A bench of justices P Sathasivam and J Chelamewar passed the judgement upholding the appeal filed by aggrieved workers of erstwhile Philip’s India Ltd which had sold its consumer electronics factory at Salt Lake, Kolkata to Kitchen Appliances India Ltd.

The aggrieved workers were not keen on continuing with the company and instead sought VRS from new management which was turned down by the company on the ground that the earlier scheme had lapsed in 1997. The Calcutta high court while upholding transfer of the ownership however, on October 10, 2001, directed the management to pay retirement, retrenchment benefits to the workers who were not keen to continue with their association in the company. As the management failed to comply with the direction, the workers appealed in the apex court.

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Draft Real Estate (Regulation & Development) Bill, 2011, Draft Model Property Rights to Slum Dwellers Act, 2011 and Central Legislation for Street Vendors

Draft Real Estate (Regulation & Development) Bill, 2011, Draft Model Property Rights to Slum Dwellers Act, 2011 and Central Legislation for Street Vendors

Ministry of Housing & Urban Poverty Alleviation notified the `Draft Real Estate (Regulation & Development) Bill, 2011`, The Draft Model Property Rights to Slum Dwellers Act, 2011` and Central Legislation for Street Vendors at a Press Conference in New Delhi.

I.  Draft Real Estate (Regulation & Development) Bill, 2011

 The Draft Real Estate (Regulation & Development) Bill, 2011 seeks to establish a regulatory oversight mechanism to enforce disclosure, fair practice and accountability norms in the real estate sector, and to provide adjudication machinery for speedy dispute redressal. This Act is in pursuance of the powers of Parliament to make laws on matters enumerated in the Concurrent List namely, transfer of property other than agricultural land; registration of deeds and documents, and contracts including partnerships, agency, contracts of carriage, and other special forms of contracts, but not including contracts relating to agricultural land.  The Bill aims at restoring confidence of the general public in the real estate sector; by instituting transparency and accountability in real estate and housing transactions.  Currently, the real estate and housing sector is largely unregulated and opaque, with consumers often unable to procure complete information, or enforce accountability against builders and developers in the absence of effective regulation.  The sector, in recent years, has also emerged as a source of black money and corruptions in the economy. The Bill is expected to ensure greater accountability towards consumers, bring transparency and fairness in transactions and reduce frauds and delays significantly. All of these factors would make sizable dent in the corruption in this sector.

 The Bill is also expected to promote regulated and orderly growth through efficiency, professionalism and standardization. It seeks to ensure consumer protection, without adding another stage in the procedure for sanctions.

 The salient features of the Draft Real Estate (Regulation & Development) Bill are:

  1. Establishment of a ‘Real Estate Regulatory Authority’ in each State by the Appropriate Government (Centre for the UTs and State Governments in the case of the States), with specified functions, powers, and responsibilities to facilitate the orderly and planned  growth of the sector;
  2. Mandatory registration of developers / builders, who intend to sell any immovable property, with the Real Estate Regulatory Authority as a system of accreditation;
  3. Mandatory public disclosure norms for all registered developers, including details of developer, project, land status , statutory approvals and contractual obligations;
  4. Obligations of promoters to adhere to approved plans and project specifications, and to refund moneys in cases of default;
  5. Obligation of allottee to make necessary payments and other charges agreed to under the agreement and payment of interest in case of any delay;
  6. Provision to compulsorily deposit a portion of funds received from the allottees in a separate bank account, to be used for that real estate project only;
  7. The Authority to act as the nodal agency to co-ordinate efforts regarding development of the real estate sector and render necessary advice to the appropriate Government to ensure the growth and promotion of a transparent, efficient and competitive real estate sector; as also establish dispute resolution mechanisms for settling disputes between promoters and allottees/ buyers;
  8. Authorities to comprise of one Chairperson and not less than two members having adequate knowledge and experience of the sector;
  9. Establishment of a ‘Real Estate Appellate Tribunal’ by the Central Government to hear appeals from the orders of the Authority and to adjudicate on disputes.  Tribunal  to be headed by a sitting or retired Judge of Supreme Court or Chief Justice of High Court with 4 judicial and at-least 4 administrative/technical members;
  10. Chairperson of the Tribunal to have powers to constitute Benches, for exercising powers of the Tribunal;
  11. Establishment of a Central Advisory Council to advise the Central Government on matters concerning implementation of the Act.
  12. Council to make recommendations on major questions of policy, protection of consumer interest and to foster growth and development of the real estate sector;
  13. Penal provisions to ensure compliance with orders of the Authority and Tribunal;
  14. Jurisdiction of Civil Courts barred on matters which the Authority or the Tribunal is empowered to determine;
  15. Both Centre and States to have  powers to make rules over subjects specified in the Bill, and the Regulatory Authority to have powers to make regulations;
  16. Powers to Central Government to issue directions to States on matters specified in the Act have also been specified.

 II.  Draft Model Property Rights to Slum Dwellers Act, 2011

The Ministry of HUPA proposed the strengthening of its Slum redevelopment strategy by working towards a slum free India, and assigning property rights to Slum Dwellers, under the Rajiv Awas Yojana (RAY). RAY proposes decisive action for inclusive urban development that acknowledges the presence of the poor in cities, recognizes their contribution as essential to the city`s functioning, and redresses the fundamental reasons for inequity that ties them down to poverty.

 The conferment of property title is a new direction for national policy that aligns national approach to the global practice. It sees ownership of property as the best investment in democracy, by creating for the household due space within the formal system, and thereby a vested interest in peace and legal order.

 The Model law is aimed at bringing within the formal system, those who are forced to live in extra-formal spaces and in denial of right to services and amenities available to those with legal title to city spaces, and at correcting the deficiencies of the formal system of urban development and town planning that have failed to create conditions of inclusiveness and equity, so that, henceforth, new urban families, whether by way of migration or natural growth of population, have recourse to housing with civic amenities, and are not forced from lack of options to create encroachments and slums and live extralegal lives in conditions of deprivation of rights and amenities.

 The Model law intends to enable the household to access the formal channels of credit; it draws the entire extralegal economy of slums out of the informal market; it enriches the slum dweller by giving him access to mortgageable rights for housing construction, and the formal economy by enabling a quarter of its population to participate in its growth. The importance that Central Government gives to this measure for inclusion and equity may be gauged from the decision to link central support for slum redevelopment with the empowering of the slum household with property rights.

The salient features of the Draft Model Property Rights to Slum Dwellers Act, 2011 are:

  1. Facilitation of inclusive growth and slum-free cities, to provide assured security of tenure, basic amenities and affordable housing to the slum-dwellers.
  2. Every landless person living in a slum area in any city or urban area on 4th June, 2009 shall be entitled to a dwelling space at an affordable cost.
  3. Every Slum dweller or the Collective of the Slum Dwellers shall be given a legal entitlement, which shall be in the name of the female head of the household or in the joint name of the male head of the household and his wife.
  4. Every slum dweller eligible shall be provided with basic civic services until the site for the dwelling space has been developed.
  5. The dwelling space so provided shall not be transferable but allowed to be mortgageable for raising housing loan, or in need to sell- but only to the Government or the Collective as the case may be.
  6. The dwelling space may be provided in-situ as far as possible, provided in cases on public interest they shall be resettled elsewhere.
  7. Constitution of a Grievance Redressal Committee for the purposes of resolving disputes in relation to matters about identification of slum dwellers.
  8. State Government shall prescribe and notify participative and transparent procedures for identification and periodic survey of slum dwellers for purpose of granting legal entitlement to slum dwellers.
  9. Establishment of City / Urban Area Slum Redevelopment Committee for implementing the provisions of the Act namely- to survey and make a list of slum dwellers, make an inventory of existing position regarding slum areas, formulate schemes for slum redevelopment/up-gradation/resettlement and for rental housing (including dormitories and night shelters) for the urban poor and slum-dwellers in-eligible etc.
  10. Establishment of a State Slum Redevelopment Authority (to be headed by the Chief Minister) to continuously monitor implementation of the Act and to recommend corrective measures wherever necessary.
  11. Emphasis on Community Participation by providing for establishment of Slum Development Committee for each slum area comprising of members for plan preparation, implementation, monitoring & evaluation, and post project maintenance.
  12. Power to acquire land for redevelopment/up-gradation and for resettlement under the Land Acquisition Act, 1894 as amended from time to time.
  13. Responsibility of the Government to prevent encroachment or of construction of illegal structures towards which necessary amendment to the Municipal and other Acts need to be undertaken.
  14. Civil courts not to have jurisdiction on matters for which the City/Urban Area Slum Redevelopment Committee, State Slum Redevelopment Committee, Grievance Redressal Committee, or the Tribunal is empowered.
  15. Power of the State Government to make rules on matters specified in the Act.

  III.  Credit Risk Guarantee Fund

 To address the issue of credit enablement of EWS and LIG households, the Ministry proposes to create a Credit Risk Guarantee Fund Scheme (CGFS) under Rajiv Awas Yojana. The salient features of the proposed fund are as follows:

Under the Credit Guarantee Fund Scheme (CGFS) the Government of India will provide credit guarantee support to collateral-free / third-party-guarantee-free housing loans up to Rs. 5 lakh extended by lending institutions for Low Income Housing. The CGFS will cover the housing loans to EWS/ LIG borrowers for the purposes of repairs, home improvement, construction, acquisition, and purchase of new or second hand dwelling units, involving an amount not exceeding Rs. 5 lakh per loan. The guarantee cover available under the scheme is proposed to be to the extent of 90% of the sanctioned housing loan amount for a loan amount of upto Rs.2 lakh. And 85% for loan amounts above Rs.2 lakh and upto Rs. 5 lakh. To administer and oversee the operations of the Scheme, provision has been made for establishment of a Credit Risk Guarantee Fund Trust for low income housing (CGFT). Rs.1000 crores has been earmarked as an initial Corpus for CGFS.

  IV.  Central Legislation for Street Vendors

The Ministry of Housing & urban Poverty Alleviation had come up with a new National Policy on Urban Street Vendors in 2009 after a comprehensive review of the previous policy. The Policy underscores the need for a legislative framework to enable street vendors to pursue an honest living without harassment from any quarter. We had drafted a Model Street Vendors (Protection of Livelihood and Regulation of Street Vending) Bill, 2009 and circulated to all States/UTs, requesting them to take a cue while legislating on the subject. The progress on state legislation has not been encouraging.  We are receiving continuous representations from the individual street vendors and their organisations to bring a central legislation which would be uniformly and mandatorily applicable to all the states and UTs. We are working to evolve and effective and practical central legislation for protection of livelihood rights and social security of street vendors in consultation with all concerned stakeholders including State Government.

 The bill would be based on the following basic principles:

  1. Legitimate street vendors are protected from harassment by police and civic authorities.
  2. Vending zones/spaces are demarcated for the street vendors. While demarcating the concept of traditional natural markets to be kept in mind.
  3. Adequate representation to street vendors and women in particular, is provided in the institutional structures created for ensuring proper implementation of the proposed law.
  4. A robust, effective and quick grievance redressal and dispute resolution mechanism is established.

 

REAL ESTATE BILL 2011   

NewReservationofLand-FAR

Draft-prop-rights

Draft policy ready, better stop exploiting domestic helps

A representation of the Lion Capital of Ashoka...

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ECONOMIC TIMES

NEW DELHI: The labour ministry has readied a national policy that confers rights, such as minimum wages and defined work hours, to domestic workers, bringing into the formal economy millions of people who have for long existed beyond its fringes. Domestic workers, estimated by the government at around 6.4 million and by non-government agencies at 10 times that number across India, could also be entitled to annual leave and sick leave, normal hours of work and compensation for overtime and social security coverage under the draft national policy prepared by the labour ministry.

“The draft will be circulated for inputs from other ministries and state governments, following which the labour ministry will prepare a note for the Cabinet,” director-general for labour welfare, Anil Swarup, told ET. The policy also includes rights such as making it mandatory for employers to provide healthy accommodation and sufficient food for live-in workers, a safe working environment, protection against sexual harassment, social security coverage including maternity benefits and formal registration with the labour department.

To make the proposals legally tenable and ensure their enforcement, the policy calls for amendments to legislations such as the Trade Union Act, the Payment of Wages Act, the Minimum Wages Act, the Maternity Benefit Act, and the Contract Labour Act. The policy has the backing of welfare agencies. “At present, domestic workers have nothing to fall back on. The national policy will establish a regulatory framework that will give them certain rights, including minimum wages, social security and protection against trafficking,” said Father Chetan of the Jharkhand-based National Domestic Workers Movement. He is also part of the taskforce that framed the draft legislation.

The policy is in line with employment standards recently adopted by the ILO for domestic workers, which mandates fixed work hours and minimum wages. While the proposed policy falls short of a national legislation for domestic workers, its effectiveness would depend on the Centre’s involvement. “There are seven states including Jharkhand that have brought domestic workers under minimum wages and many more that have implemented the health scheme, RSBY Act, after the labour ministry wrote to them,” Father Chetan said.

However, some warned that the policy would need to be properly implemented to ensure it does not just stay on paper. “It could be a toothless policy if necessary legislations are not changed and proper monitoring and enforcement is not done,” said a member of the task force who did not wish to be named. The labour ministry proposes to set up a monitoring committee comprising officials from the labour and women and child development ministries, representatives of domestic workers and employers.

http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/politics/nation/draft-policy-ready-better-stop-exploiting-domestic-helps/articleshow/10586528.cms

National Green Tribunal

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The Government has appointed four Expert Members and two Judicial Members in the National Green Tribunal (NGT). A Selection Committee as per the details given below has been constituted under Rule 3 of NGT (Manner of Appointment of Judicial and Expert Members, Salaries, Allowances and other Terms and Conditions of Service of Chairperson and other Members and procedure for Inquiry) Rules, 2010 dated 26.11.2010, framed under NGT Act, 2010:

(1)        Sitting Judge of Supreme Court nominated by the Chief Justice of India in consultation with Ministry of Law and Justice– Chaiperson
(2)        Chairperson of the NGT                                                                                         Member
(3)        Secretary to Government of India, M/o Environment & Forests       Member
(4)        Director, Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur                                    Member
(5)        Director, Indian Institute of Management, Ahmadabad                        Member
(6)        President, Centre for Policy Research, New Delhi                                    Member

 During the first phase of selection process of Members in the Tribunal, the following criteria were applied on the applicants who initially fulfilled the eligibility under Section 5 of the NGT Act, 2010 for further screening of applications:

For Judicial Member

No sitting/former Judge of the High Court will be considered for appointment to the post of ‘Judicial Member’ of the Tribunal if he has retired prior to one year or still has more than one year in service, both computed from the date of advertisement. It is in the interest of the Tribunal and administration of Justice as well that a person appointed should have reasonable tenure to be the Member of the Tribunal and discharge his functions effectively.

The other terms are the Judge concerned should have preferably performed judicial work relating to Environment Laws, the comments of the Chief Justice of the concerned High Court, may also be invited in relation to judges short-listed for appointments as ‘Judicial Member’ of the Tribunal and the applicants who are presently working as Member of any Tribunal or have got an assignment post-retiral will not be considered.

 For Expert Member

(a)        No serving/retired Government employee will be considered for appointment to the post of ‘expert Member’ of the Tribunal if he has retired prior to one year or still has more than one year in service, both computed from the date of advertisement .It is in the interest of the Tribunal and administration of justice as well that a person appointed should have reasonable tenure to be the Member of the Tribunal and discharge his functions effectively.

 (b)        The ‘Expert Member’ besides satisfying the qualifications prescribed under Section 5 read with Rule 5 should have requisite experience relatable to expertise in the environmental management.

 (c)        The Ministry to also examine whether there is any serious conflict of interest between the applicant and the Ministry/ Administrative interest of the Tribunal

 (d)       The applicants who have opted for deputation only and are below the rank of Additional Secretary to the Government of India would not be considered.

 This information was given by the Minister of State for Environment and Forests (independent charge) Shrimati Jayanthi Natarajan in a written reply to a question by Dr. Arvind Kumar Sharma in Lok Sabha today.

Journalists may soon need law degree to report on Supreme Court

SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

SUPREME COURT OF INDIA

Print and electronic media journalists will also need to have at least 7 years and three-and-a-half years of experience, respectively

Nikhil Kanekal in The MINT

New Delhi: New Supreme Court reporting norms, if enforced, will result in 80% of the journalists who have been covering proceedings being disqualified. The Supreme Court can bar any correspondent from coverage without offering any reasons under the new rules.

Issued by the court on Saturday, the norms require that permanent and temporary accredited print journalists have a professional law degree and at least seven years of experience. Electronic media reporters need, apart from the law degree, at least three-and-a-half-years of experience. The circular did not set a deadline for the norms to come into force. Court officials didn’t throw light on when the circular would come into effect, when asked on Tuesday.

The new norms follow instances in which faults were found in coverage.

Two of these arose from coverage of the Vodafone tax dispute. Vodafone lawyer Harish Salve complained to the Supreme Court that a Press Trust of India (PTI) report on 10 August had misquoted him. Salve had argued that Vodafone could “avoid” tax as tax avoidance was permissible under law. Indian income-tax authorities have alleged that Vodafone evaded tax by structuring its $11.2 billion transaction to buy out Hutchison’s Indian cellular business through tax-saving routes. Salve spent more than a day demonstrating to the bench the difference between tax avoidance and evasion, and that his client had acted in accordance with law.

The court sought a response from PTI on an application made by Salve after the agency’s report.

On 18 August, PTI’s lawyer Shyam Divan issued an unconditional apology to the court, Vodafone and Salve.

Chief Justice S.H. Kapadia’s three-judge bench asked PTI to file a detailed affidavit explaining whether its reporter was present in the court at the time Salve made his argument. The court reportedly observed that norms for journalists needed to be revisited in light of the incident and what it said were other recent inaccurate reports.

Previously, Kapadia had expressed displeasure at a 15 December news report in a national daily that said the judiciary wanted to retain 1% of the Rs. 2,500 crore deposit made by Vodafone to the court’s registry. The report suggested that a “cash-strapped” judiciary was trying to source funds from “novel” methods such as these. Kapadia had then said: “People write whatever they want.” But the court did not initiate any action against the reporter or the newspaper.

Different benches of the court have, in the past, pointed to inaccurate or sensational news reports. However, Mint could not immediately ascertain the immediate reasons for the revision of the norms.

A.I.S. Cheema, secretary general of the court, the senior-most official on the administrative side, did not have time to meet this reporter on Tuesday for clarity on reasons for revising the norms.

The court’s media officials said reporters could make representations that would be forwarded to decision makers.

Justice Dalveer Bhandari, the Supreme Court judge in charge of granting accreditation to journalists, could not be reached on phone. His staff said he would not be available to comment till later this week.

A media law expert said India has an open court system that inspires confidence among people on the judiciary’s functioning.

“In India, unlike in the US, the press has no independent right under the freedom of expression. The journalist exercises his right as a citizen of this country under Article 19 (1)(a) and also acts as a trustee of the public’s right to know. In certain situations, he might get more access than others, but technically under our open court system that shouldn’t be necessary,” said the expert, who did not want to be named.

“Everyone can have access as it’s meant to be a check on the judges. It’s a check on the system. What is to stop me if I go into a court as lay person and write about something which I think is worthy of sharing with the public? As long as I’m not distorting the proceedings, there should be no problem,” this person said.

The Supreme Court has expressed its appreciation for the role played by the press in its annual reports. “Supreme Court attached great importance to the role of media and complementary to that of judicial organ in a democratic polity. In order to strengthen this partnership, the court took certain initiatives for mutual benefit,” said the 2008-09 report as it elucidated programmes organized by it to train court correspondents.

A February 2002 report in Frontline magazine cited a Supreme Court judgement that contained a defence of the freedom of the press. “Public trial in open court is undoubtedly essential for the healthy objective and fair administration of justice. Trial held subject to public scrutiny and gaze naturally acts as a check against judicial caprice or vagaries and serves as a powerful instrument for creating confidence of the public in the fairness, objectivity and impartiality of the administration of justice.”

There are currently 14 permanent accredited correspondents in the Supreme Court and approximately 80 temporary accredited journalists, according to the court’s officials.

Editors react

Newspaper and television editors said the requirement for a law degree might be excessive and that the unilateral provision in the norms to withdraw a journalist’s accreditation was not desirable.

“Reporters need not have a law degree to report on the Supreme Court. They need to have strong news sense and an acquaintance of legal nuances,” said Arnab Goswami, editor-in-chief, Times Now.

“The new norms seem overly restrictive and will make it more difficult for the media to cover the Supreme Court properly,” said Siddharth Varadarajan, editor of The Hindu. “While I share the concerns of the honourable judges that court proceedings are sometimes not reported accurately, the solution lies in proper editorial supervision by our newspapers and TV channels, rather than by specifying, with mathematical precision, the onerous qualifications court reporters must possess in order to be given access to a court room.”

“In the absence of access, there may actually be a greater likelihood of inaccurate reporting as journalists will be forced to rely on one-sided accounts of courtroom proceedings by lawyers representing their clients,” he said.

Sanjay Gupta, editor, Dainik Jagran, published by Jagran Prakashan Ltd, said: “As an editor, I will anyway not hire a fresher to report on Supreme Court judgements. However, I don’t think there should be a prerequisite for reporters to have a degree in law. If reporters have adequate experience and are reporting judgements intelligently, and if the editors don’t have an issue, I don’t think it’s fair for the court to then have stringent norms.”

“I don’t want to comment much on the revised norm to withdraw the accreditation without giving any reason. Withdrawal of accreditation should be a bilateral dialogue between the authority and the newspaper. The editors have a right to know when a particular legal correspondent’s accreditation is withdrawn,” he added.

Abhilasha Ojha contributed to this story.

Talk of judicial overreach is bogey: Supreme Court

Supreme Court of India

THE HINDU

Rejecting the criticism of judicial activism, the Supreme Court has said the judiciary has stepped in to give directions only because of executive inaction what with laws enacted by Parliament and the State legislatures in the last 63 years for the poor not being implemented properly. A Bench of Justices G.S. Singhvi and A.K. Ganguly pointed out that laws enacted for achieving the goals set out in the Preamble to the Constitution had been extremely inadequate and tardy, and the benefit of welfare measures enshrined in those legislation had not reached millions of poor, downtrodden and disadvantaged sections, nor did efforts to bridge the gap between the haves and have-nots yield the desired result.

Writing the judgment in a case related to sewerage workers, Justice Singhvi said: “The most unfortunate part of the scenario is that whenever one of the three constituents of the state i.e. the judiciary issues directions for ensuring that the right to equality, life and liberty no longer remains illusory for those who suffer from the handicaps of poverty, illiteracy and ignorance, and directions are given for implementation of the laws enacted by the legislature for the benefit of the have-nots, a theoretical debate is started by raising the bogey of judicial activism or overreach.”

The Bench pointed out that the orders issued for the benefit of weaker sections were invariably challenged in the higher courts. In a large number of cases, the sole object of this exercise is to tire out those who genuinely espouse the cause of the weak and the poor. Justifying the directions issued by the Delhi High Court for protection of sewerage workers on a public interest litigation petition, the Bench said: “The superior courts will be failing in their constitutional duty if they decline to entertain petitions filed by genuine social groups, NGOs and social workers for espousing the cause of those who are deprived of the basic rights available to every human being, what to say of fundamental rights guaranteed under the Constitution.”

The Bench clarified that it deemed it necessary to erase the impression and misgivings among some people that the superior courts, by entertaining PIL petitions for espousing the cause of the poor who could not seek protection and vindication of their rights, exceeded the unwritten boundaries of their jurisdiction. The judges said it was the duty of the judiciary, like that of the political and executive constituents of the state, to protect the rights of every citizen and ensure that everyone lived with dignity.

Beijing statement

Quoting the judiciary’s objectives as mentioned in the 1995 Beijing statement, the Bench said these would include ensuring that all persons were able to live securely under the rule of law; promoting within the proper limits of the judicial function the observance and attainment of human rights, and administering the law impartially among persons and between persons and the state.

http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/article2228591.ece

Provide safety gear to sewer workers who enter manholes, says Supreme court

Supreme Court of India

J VENKATESAN IN THE HINDU

The Supreme Court has underlined the need for giving proper equipment, adequate protection and safety gears to sewer workers who enter manholes for clearing blocks. Expressing anguish over the manner in which they were treated by the employers, a Bench of Justices G.S. Singhvi and A.K. Ganguly said: “Given the option, no one would like to enter the manhole of a sewerage system for cleaning purposes, but there are people who are forced to undertake such hazardous jobs with the hope that at the end of the day they will be able to make some money and feed their family.”

Writing the judgment, Justice Singhvi said: “The State and its agencies/instrumentalities cannot absolve themselves of the responsibility to put in place an effective mechanism for ensuring the safety of the workers employed for maintaining and cleaning the sewerage system. The human beings who are employed for doing the work in sewers cannot be treated as mechanical robots, who may not be affected by poisonous gases in manholes.”

The Bench said: “They risk their lives for the comfort of others. Unfortunately, for the last few decades, a substantial segment of the urban society has become insensitive to the plight of the poor and downtrodden including those, who on account of their sheer economic compulsions, undertake jobs/works which are inherently dangerous to life.“People belonging to this segment do not want to understand why a person is made to enter manholes without safety gears and proper equipment. They look the other way when the body of a worker who dies in the manhole is taken out with the help of ropes and cranes.“It will be a tragic and sad day when the superior courts shut their doors for those, who without any motive for personal gain or other extraneous reasons, come forward to seek protection and enforcement of the legal and constitutional rights of the poor, downtrodden and disadvantaged sections of society.”

Silent sufferers

The judges said: “If the system can devote hours, days and months to hear the elitist class of eminent advocates who are engaged by those who are accused of evading payment of taxes and duties or committing heinous crimes like murder, rape, dowry death, kidnapping, abduction and even acts of terrorism or who come forward with the grievance that their fundamental right to equality has been violated by the State and/or its agencies/instrumentalities in contractual matters, some time can always be devoted for hearing the grievance of vast majority of silent sufferers whose cause is espoused by NGOs.”

In the instant case, on a Public Interest Litigation plea from the National Campaign for Dignity and Rights of Sewerage and Allied Workers and others, the Delhi High Court gave a series of directions to the Delhi Jal Board for the safety and protection of sewer workers and also ordered payment of compensation to the families of those who died after inhaling poisonous gas in manholes. The appeal is directed against this order. Dismissing the appeal, the Bench deprecated the attitude of the public authority for frustrating the effort made by the respondent (petitioner in the High Court) for getting compensation to the workers who died due to the negligence of the contractor, to whom the work of maintaining the sewers was outsourced. The Bench directed implementation of the High Court directions within two months and sought a compliance report.

http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/article2228688.ece