Dalit Couple Moves Madras HC Against Discrimination & Harassment By Employer, Fined Rs 25,000
Madras High Court fined a Dalit couple for unnecessarily wasting the Court’s time and resources. The Madurai Bench asked the couple to pay a fine of Rs 25,000. The matter pertains to Anna University where dean Chitra Selvi had been accused in a documentary video shot by Divya Bharathi in 2017 of forcing them to work in turns at their residence and do household chores such as laundry, cleaning toilets etc. The Dalit woman also accused the husband of the dean of sexual harassment and gave a detailed account of the incidents.
Allegation of the Dalit workers
In her words, the accused while taking a bath would ask her to bring his underwear and towel and also the dean and her husband would not hesitate in making them do laundry which included their inner wears.
Their rights were violated under the provisions of the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and Rehabilitation Act, 2013. The Dalit couple were also at times prepared to work at Chitra Selvi’s parent’s house and thus exploiting the skewed power equation between the employer and the employee. They alleged that although they had been employed as sweepers for the university their services they were being exploited.
The judgement that was pronounced by Justice T Raja on January 10 said as quoted by The News Minute, “When she is employed as a scavenger/cleaner in the fifth respondent college and on the routine basis, she is also posted in her house, she has to clean the toilets in the house and also wash dresses irrespective of the fact that whether it is her dresses or the inner dresses of her husband or other members. It does not make any difference. Similarly, when a sweeper is employed, he/she has to clean the toilets as well because she was appointed for washing the clothes of all the family members for which she has been paid. Hence, being a domestic maid appointed as sweeper or cleaner, she must wash all kinds of clothes irrespective of whether they are regular clothes or underwear.”
The aggrieved couple took the job as they were under the impression that the position of ‘sweeper’ is solely meant to be carried out on the college campus. All other workers who initially supported the couple withdrew their support and went back to work after submitting an apology letter each. The couple is now left with nothing but death threats, joblessness and a devastated livelihood, her husband said.