Monday, 23 May, 2022
HomeJudiciaryIn no country are people sent to gas chambers to die: Supreme...

In no country are people sent to gas chambers to die: Supreme Court on manual scavengers

The Supreme Court pulled up the Centre for the lack of proper protective gear for manual scavengers, who mostly work without gloves or masks.

Text Size:

New Delhi: Nowhere in the world people are sent to “gas chambers to die”, fumed the Supreme Court on Wednesday while expressing serious concern over deaths during manual scavenging and manhole cleaning across the country.

Slamming the government authorities for not providing protective gear like masks and oxygen cylinders to people engaged in manual scavenging and manhole cleaning, the apex court said this is the “most inhuman” way to treat a human being.

The top court also said that although over 70 years have passed since India got Independence, caste discrimination still persists in the country and the society is not treating all human beings equally despite the Constitutional mandate.

“Why are you not providing them masks and oxygen cylinders? In no country in the world, people are sent to gas chambers to die. Four to five people are dying due to this every month,” a bench headed by Justice Arun Mishra asked Attorney General K K Venugopal.

Venugopal, while conceding that people involved in such works are dying in the country day-after-day, said deaths have also happened due to potholes on the roads but no action has been taken against the authorities concerned.

He told the bench, also comprising justices M R Shah and B R Gavai, that law of tort, which deals with civil wrong and its liabilities thereof, is not developed and practiced in the country and though the magistrates have jurisdiction, not a single case has been registered suo motu (on its own) on such incidents.

“A case cannot be filed against people who are sweeping the streets or cleaning sewers. Cases should be filed against the supervisory officers and authorities who are responsible for such works as they have collected taxes from the citizens for this,” the Attorney General said.

The bench remarked, “This is the most inhuman way to treat a human being”.

“It is the most uncivilized and inhuman situation where the people are losing their lives in gas chambers without any masks or oxygen cylinders,” the bench said, adding, “You have to take care of people. People are dying everyday due to this”.

“All the human beings are equal and when they are equal you should provide them equal opportunities as mandated under the Constitution. You are not even providing them an equal chance and they are not been given the basic facilities to even clean themselves,” the bench said.

Justice Mishra also questioned whether the practice of untouchability, which was abolished by the Constitution, has stopped.

“Despite the Constitution abolishing untouchability in the country, I am asking all of you, will any of you shake hands with them? The answer is no. That is the way we are going on. The condition must improve. We have moved 70 years since Independence but these things are still happening,” Justice Mishra said.

Agreeing with the observation, Venugopal said the caste system is embedded in the country despite the Constitution saying that there should not be any discrimination on the basis of religion, caste and creed.

The apex court made these scathing observations while it was hearing the Centre’s plea seeking review of its last year’s verdict which had virtually diluted the provisions of arrest under the SC/ST Act.

The bench reserved its verdict on the review plea filed by the Centre against the March 20 last year verdict delivered by a two-judge bench of the apex court.

Also read: Converting waste to energy is great, but also disastrous if done as here in Delhi


Subscribe to our channels on YouTube & Telegram

Why news media is in crisis & How you can fix it

India needs free, fair, non-hyphenated and questioning journalism even more as it faces multiple crises.

But the news media is in a crisis of its own. There have been brutal layoffs and pay-cuts. The best of journalism is shrinking, yielding to crude prime-time spectacle.

ThePrint has the finest young reporters, columnists and editors working for it. Sustaining journalism of this quality needs smart and thinking people like you to pay for it. Whether you live in India or overseas, you can do it here.

Support Our Journalism


  1. This issue has reached a tipping point. In the past, the apex court has delivered judgments of far reaching import, enlarging the meaning of Right to Life. May the SC be pleased to use its entire moral force to completely ban this shameful practice. This should in fact have been the top priority of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan.

Comments are closed.

Most Popular