Balram Singh V. Union of India

By – Jagrit Singla (Baba Farid Law College, Faridkot)


Manual Scavenging is a huge inhuman activity which increases the problem of discrimination in the society. It is a big concern and global issue which needs to be addressed by altering the legislative reforms, increasing penalties and punishments and by spreading the social awareness in the society. This case highlights the methods of demolishing the activities of manual scavenging as this type of forced employment violates the fundamental rights of the workers engaged in manual scavenging. This case also highlights the number of risks involved in the lives of the workers engaged and the compensation which should be awarded by the government to the deceased workers.This case also delves into the action which shall be taken by the government in forming the policies and issuing directions to eradicate the manual scavenging from the society.This case also digs into the measures which must be taken by the Union to eradicate the manual scavenging and the rehabilitation of the manual scavengers, by forming the different Committees at the National, State and District levels. It aims the rights of workers must be protected by issuing the guidelines and policies for the welfare of the manual scavengers. So, by analysing the cases and all the legislative provisions this case analysis highlights the key areas and problems related to the manual scavenging and its impact on the society.   

Keywords: Manual Scavenging, Article 32, Constitution of India, Writ Petition, Rehabilitation, Inhuman Practice, Dignified Livelihood, Compensation, Discrimination.

Judgement Cause TitleDr. Balram Singh V. Union of India and Others
Case NumberWP/ 324/2020
Judgement Date20th October, 2023
CourtSupreme Court of India
QuorumAravind KumarS. Ravindra Bhat  
AuthorS. Ravindra Bhat
Citation(2023) SCC Online SC 1386
Legal Provisions InvolvedArticle 32 of Constitution of India; Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and Their Rehabilitation Act, 2013.


Every person is equal in the eyes of the Law as provided under Article 14 of the Constitution of India, i.e., Equality before Law which provides that the State shall treat every person equally irrespective of their caste, colour, religion, sex, work, etc. To prevent the social evils such as untouchability, forced and involuntary labour practices, discrimination, bondage labour, etc. various other laws are enacted by the Government of India. To specifically deal with the problems of the manual scavenging the government also introduced “Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act, 1993” and the “Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and Their Rehabilitation Act, 2013.” With the help of these legislations the civil rights of the labours/ manual scavengers cannot be violated and the proper safety and the rewards are also provided to them, to relinquish the evil of bonded labour from the society.

Manual Scavenging:  Manual Scavenging refers to the hazardous practice of manually cleaning, handling, and disposing of human waste, typically from dry latrines or open drains, without protective equipment or proper sanitation facilities. It is often associated with caste-based discrimination and is illegal in many countries due to its health and human rights implications. For the welfare and upliftment of the manual scavengers a special commission for Safai Karamcharis was formed under the “Safai Karamchari Act, 1993.”
Bonded Labour: In India, “Bonded Labour System Act of 1976” was passed by the Government of India to release bonded labourers and cancel all the bonded debts against such labourers. This system of bondage implies the infringement of basic human rights and destruction of the dignity of human labour. So, to release the bondage the Parliament enacted various legislations; first was the “Civil Rights Act, 1955” and it was amended in the year 1976. And later to penalize such severe forms “Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989” was enacted. To give more strength to the labourers and diminish the untouchability two more Acts namely, “Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act, 1993” and the “Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and Their Rehabilitation Act, 2013” were enacted by the Indian Government.


The government of India enacted various legislations for the welfare and raise the livelihood of the manual scavengers and also to demolish the untouchability from the society. The Act of 1993 and Act of 2013 were introduced to ensure the proper rehabilitation and employment with adequate salaries and compensation. However, the above-mentioned Acts and legislations does not fulfil the objectives and proper measures are not taken by the government of India for the manual scavengers.

The Petitioner files the writ petition on the basis that the Union of India (respondents) have not implemented the provisions of the said Acts enacted for the welfare of the manual scavengers and thus, adequate actions must be taken by the government to punish and penalise the persons responsible for the employment of manual scavengers engaged in cleaning and emptying the dry toilets, insanitary latrines, ditches and pits.

Also, the various institutions created under the various Acts and commissions constituted under the National Commission for the Safai Karamchari Act, 1993 are not working properly at District, State and Central levels. Some States and Districts does not even constitute the commission as provided under the Act. Due to the said problems faced by the manual scavengers, the present writ petition was filed in the Supreme Court of India.


  1. Whether the present petition is maintainable under Article 32 of the Constitution of India?
  2. Whether the objects of Article 17, Article 21, and Article 23 of the Indian Constitution are being violated?
  3. Whether the Union or appropriate government does not take adequate measures and does not frame policies or issues directions for the welfare of manual scavengers?
  4. Whether the Union is responsible for the liabilities and compensations for the negligence and non-compliance of the provisions of the said overt Acts?


  • The counsels for Petitioner / Appellant submitted that the scope of the Acts of 1993 and 2013 should be increased and the families of the persons died in sewerage works, since 1993 must be compensated with the amount of Rs. 10,00,000/- each.
  • The fundamental rights under the Articles 15,17,23 & 24 of Indian Constitution must be enforced and the dignified employment should be provided to the said oppressed class for their welfare and to raise their standard of livelihood.
  • The Petitioner further submitted that the State Level Survey Committees (SLSC) and District Level Survey Committees (DLSC) should be formed which shall be responsible for the surveys and publication of the consolidated list of the manual scavengers and adequate information shall be provided by them.
  •  According to the Act of 2013, the Union shall mandate a localised surveys at local levels as well for the rehabilitation of the manual scavengers. The Chief Executive Officer of the municipality or gram panchayat is responsible for the completion of the surveys.


  • The counsels for Respondent submitted that the efforts are being made for the identification of the manual scavengers for their rehabilitation and also submitted the report that about 62.81 lakhs sanitary toilets are constructed and 650 districts, out of 766 districts are free of manual scavenging.
  • The respondents also submitted that any dry latrines existed before 2013 were dismantled and converted into sanitary latrines. Furthermore, compensation has been provided to about 948 families of those who died during the sewerage works. However, there have been no reported deaths due to manual scavenging since 2013.
  • It was further submitted that due to the limited scope of the National Commission for Safai Karamcharis, the focus is on the rehabilitation of the manual scavengers and it does not have the powers to summon the concerned official as it is neither a constitutional nor statutory body. There is also lack of staff for the fulfilment of adequate functioning and administrative tasks.


  • Article 15 of Indian Constitution: “The State shall not discriminate against any citizen on grounds only of religion, race, caste, sex, place of birth or nay of them.”
  • Article 17 of Indian Constitution: “Untouchability is abolished and its practice in any form is forbidden. The enforcement of any disability arising out of Untouchability shall be an offence punishable in accordance with law.”
  • Article 21 of Indian Constitution: “No person shall be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to procedure established by law.”
  • Article 23 of Indian Constitution: “Traffic in human beings and beggar and other similar forms of forced labour are prohibited and any contravention of this provision shall be an offence punishable in accordance with law.”
  • Section 7 of Manual Scavengers and their Rehabilitation Act, 2013: “No person, local authority or any agency shall, as the State Government may notify, which shall not be later than 1 year from the date of commencement of this Act, engage or employ, either directly or indirectly, any person for hazardous cleaning of a sewer or a septic tank.”


  • The Court held that, the Union should take adequate measures and frame policies, to completely eradicate the manual scavenging from the society, and with the help of appropriate government and statutory bodies the rehabilitation of the manual scavengers should be done, by issuing the proper directions.
  • The Court directed that the amount of compensation must be increased to 30 lakhs, in case of death of sewer deaths which is to be paid to the deceased family. The compensation shall also to be paid in case of any disability to the worker.
  • The Government is duty bound to ensure that there is no violation of Constitutional Articles 15,17,23&24 eradicate the manual scavenging completely and help the workers trapped in inhuman conditions.


In the end, we are of the view that the untouchability, bonded labour, manual scavenging and all the inhuman practices must be eradicated from the society and there should not be any kind of involuntary or forced labour; the workers should be provided with proper salaries for their work. The appropriate government shall ensure that proper committees are created and there shall be coordination between them so that, the eradication of manual scavenging and welfare of the workers and their families can become possible. The proper surveys shall be done by such societies and the government shall also ensure that in case of death of any of the worker engage in the sewerage works the adequate amount of compensation is granted to his/her family.


  1. Important Cases Referred
    “Safai Karamchari Andolan vs. Union of India”
    “All India Council of Trade Unions vs. Union of India”
    “People’s Union for Democratic Rights vs. Union of India”
  1. Important Statutes Referred
    Civil Rights Act, 1955.
    Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989.
    Employment of Manual Scavengers and Construction of Dry Latrines (Prohibition) Act, 1993. Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and Their Rehabilitation Act, 2013.
    Safai Karamchari Act, 1993.Constitution of India, 1950.

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