The Anna Salai police on Wednesday arrested the contractor who had engaged 26-year-old Arul, who died while cleaning a sewage channel in the basement of Express Avenue mall in Royapettah in the early hours of Tuesday.
In a parallel development, the Chennai Corporation issued an order to the mall management, directing it to pay a compensation of ₹10 lakh to the victim’s family, as per a recent order of the Supreme Court.
Arul, of Namachivayapuram near Ice House, died when he entered a sewer channel to rescue his brother Ranjith, who complained of uneasiness while clearing solid waste in the mall’s basement. The contractor, Dhandapani, 52, of Arakkonam, had engaged Arul and four others for the work.
Based on a complaint from Murthy, the victim’s father, the Anna Salai police filed an FIR, naming the contractor and the management of the mall as accused. The case was booked under Section 3(ii) of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, Section 9 of the Prohibition of Employment As Manual Scavengers and Their Rehabilitation Act, 2013 (which stipulates a penalty) and Section 304 II (culpable homicide not amounting to murder) of the IPC.
On Wednesday, following interrogation, the Anna Salai police produced Dhandapani before a metropolitan magistrate court and remanded him in judicial custody.
On information from the police, the Corporation’s health officials inspected the mall. According to a notice served by the Corporation’s Nungambakkam zonal officer to the mall management, they found that the management had engaged a few private employees for cleaning a waste water tank in the third basement, during the early hours of Tuesday. As safety gear was not provided and no safety norms were followed, Arul died of suffocation from foul gas, the notice stated.
As engaging manual scavengers without protective gear is an offence under 5(1)b of the Prohibition of Employment as Manual Scavengers and Their Rehabilitation Act, 2013, the notice from the Corporation official stated: “You [the mall management] are directed to show cause why legal action should not be taken against your establishment.”
The Corporation also directed the mall management to pay out a compensation of ₹10 lakh to the legal heirs of the victim, as per a Supreme court judgment, within three days of receipt of the notice, failing which further action would be initiated as per rules.