Delhi HC Dismisses Petition Challenging DJB's Scheme on Manual Scavengers

Team SoOLEGAL 11 Jun 2018 2:30pm

Delhi HC Dismisses Petition Challenging DJB's Scheme on Manual Scavengers

The Delhi High Court recently dismissed a writ petition filed by M/S Metro Waste Handling against the Delhi Jal Board (DJB) calling for bids for mechanised sewer cleaning and its transportation.

The petitioner has filed two appeals before the HC bench comprising of Justices S Ravindra Bhat and AK Chawla.

Firstly, the petitioner had challenged the DJB condition of awarding of one machine per bidder, calling it as unfair and arbitrary for bidders like itself and those with similar standing. The petitioner alleged that awarding only one vehicle under the NIT would make redundant its acquired infrastructure and investments made; and would also impact its 600 employees (and their dependents).

DJB opposed the petitioners’ claim and submitted that the conditions prescribed in the tender were made to assist such scavengers in “self employment”, and eliminate the risks involved in manual scavenging when undertaken by the “disorganized individual sector”.

The Board further contended that by implementing the one machine one bidder rule, it attempts to employ the largest number of people in small units.

The Court also agreed with the respondents’ submission and said that on the question of cap on awarding one machine per bidder, the public agency, i.e. the DJB cannot be expected to not impose such a cap just because they did not do so in the past. A cap of this nature was imposed for all bidders and was in no way discriminatory.

In another appeal, the petition had challenged the preference list provided by the DJB:

  1. Family dependent of the deceased manual scavengers
  2. Manual scavengers themselves (after due verification)
  3. SC/STs as per Article 15 (4) and 46 of the Indian Constitution
  4. Others

In its tender, the DJB had stated that in awarding of bids, it would give preference to the bidders and their dependent engaged in the manual scavenging, and to those belonging to the SC/ST communities.

The petitioner, however, objected to the Board’s preference saying it would be abused and the entire process of selection of bidders would be opaque.

The bench, on question of preference to bidders, opined that “The object of such preference is plainly to enable the meaningful participation of the most marginalised section, that is workers involved in manual scavenging, and scheduled caste/scheduled tribe communities (who are so chosen, having regard to what the Constitution framers stated as “a backward section of the Hindu community who were handicapped by the practice of untouchability).”

Finding no merit in the petition, the court dismissed it.

“Unseen and forgotten for generations, our society has marginalized manual scavengers to its darkest corners. They are trapped in an eternal caste embrace, with no voice in the society or in any meaningful participation; their children are doomed to the same stereotypical roles assigned to them. The promise of equality, dignity and egalitarianism has eluded them altogether in the March and progress witnessed by the rest of our citizens. The present project, through the DJB’s impugned tender, promises a positive tomorrow to a significant number of these individuals”, the court observed.

Tagged: Delhi Jal Board   Delhi High Court   Metro Waste Handling   Article 15   Article 46   Indian Constitution  
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