(1.) This Court by an Order dated 1st May, 1981 appointed Dr. Upendra Baxi and Mr. Krishan Mahajan as a Commission to undertake a socio-legal investigation with a mandate to ascertain;
(i) Who flay the carcasses and the manner of doing it in Sarsaul district;
(ii) The remuneration derived by those who carry out this work and from whom they receive the remuneration;
(iii) The impact of the contractor system on "the livelihood of those who have been originally carrying out this work;" and
(iv) The manner of implementation of the contract system and its effect.
The State of Uttar Pradesh was directed to deposit a sum of Rs. 1500/- to defray the expenses of the Commission and the Commission was requested to submit a report on or before 7th May, 1981. But, due to certain communication gap the Order for depositing the amount of Rs. 1500/- was not communicated to the State Government, with the result that the time for deposit had to be extended till 27th July, 1981 and in the mean time the amount to be deposited having been enhanced to Rs. 3000/- and pursuant to the Order extending the time, a sum of Rs. 3000/- as enhanced was deposited by the State Government. By the same Order the Commission was required to visit one or more of three places, namely, Kanpur, Hardoi and Etawa. The Commission thereafter submitted its plan of action to the Court on 10th August 1981 along with the budget estimates and the Court passed an Order on 12th August, 1981 issuing several specific and some general directions broadening the mandate of the Commission and requesting the Commission to investigate the operation of the bye-laws of Kanpur and Etawa districts "in the context of the Directive Principles of State Policy set out in Articles 38, 39, 43 and 46 of the Constitution, the requirement of "public interest" and the decisions of this Court on the right to live with dignity within the economic resources of the State." The Commission was also directed to enquire into the market and exchange mechanisms between the various parties affected in these cases. Pursuant to the directions given by the Court in these various Orders, the Commission visited the following villages in Sarsaul block in Kanpur district : Sarsaul, Tiwaripur, Hathipur, Fufuhar, Madhuva Gaon, Kurbi Gaon and Purva. The Commission also felt that it would be desirable to visit a block where the contract system was operating but where no persons involved in the work of flaying carcass had filed any petitions before the Court and it accordingly visited certain villages in Sawankhera block of Kanpur district. The Commission made a detailed socio-legal investigation and submitted a report to this Court in the middle of November, 1981. The Report is a remarkable socio-legal document throwing light on socio-economic conditions of the Chamars and analysing the problem of carcass utilisation in the rural areas of Uttar Pradesh in great depth with profound sympathy and understanding and a highly constructive -approach. The Court must acknowledge its sense of gratitude to the Commission for the magnificent work which it has done. The Report highlights numerous aspects of the problem each of which would require detailed consideration by the Court but that is an exercise which we propose to perform at a later date because it would require full arguments. Mean while there are one or two aspects of the problem on which we would like to focus for the time being since they require urgent attention of the Court. But, before we proceed to consider these aspects, we may point out that while submitting its accounts to the Registrar of the Court, the Commission has pointed out that the total expenditure incurred by them came to Rs. 3412/- as against the deposit of Rs. 3000/- made by the State Government and the Commission has l requested the Court for reimbursement of the excess expenditure of Rs. 412/- which the members of the Commission have spent from their own pocket. We would therefore direct the State Government to deposit within two weeks from today a sum of Rs. 412/- which the Commission may withdraw along with the amount of Rs. 3000/- already deposited in Court.
(2.) Now the problem of carcass utilisation in rural areas of Uttar Pradesh as appearing from the Report of the Commission is a highly complex socio-economic problem and some constructive and very useful suggestions have been made by the Commission in Chapter XII of the Report. The Commission has put forward a broad scheme for amelioration of those engaged in carcass utilisation process which has highly commended itself to us and we would request the State Government to seriously consider this scheme and put forward before us at the next hearing of the writ petition a detailed scheme taking into account the suggestions made by the Commission and, if possible, fitting them into a frame-work of cooperative societies of carcass flayers who are mostly chamars. If the State Government can work out a viable scheme on the lines suggested by the Commission it will go a long way towards improving the life conditions of chamars and other backward communities engaged in carcass flaying and also promote rural reconstruction and regeneration leading to a healthy and around development of village economy which in the ultimate analysis would benefit the entire rural population. The State Government may take up a pilot project in some of the blocks of Kanpur district and in the light of the experience gained, extend the scheme to other rural areas of the State. We may point out that in this matter the State Government appearing through Mr. Bhardwaj has adopted an extremely co-operative attitude and shown a highly laudable anxiety for protecting the interests of the poor chamars. It must be said to the credit of Mr. Bhardwaj that he has extended his fullest support to the cause of the poor chamars and other backward classes engaged in flaying of carcass and adopted the right approach to a problem of this kind. This is not a litigation of an adversary character but it is really in the nature of Public Interest Litigation which seeks to bring about amelioration in the life conditions of large number of people who are victims of exploitation and the approach in such a litigation has therefore to he of a totally different kind. Public interest litigation of this character must be looked upon as a collaborative or cooperative effort on the part of the State Government and its officers, lawyers appearing for the parties and the Court for the purpose of making basic human rights available to the weaker sections of the community and reaching to them socio-economic justice.
(3.) Since the preparation and working out of the scheme as suggested by us is likely to take some time, we do not think it would be proper for us not to allow the Zila Parishad to give the contract for collection of skins, horns and bones of different animals by auction under the bye-laws made by the Zilla Parishad under section 239(2) of the Kshetra Samiti and Zilla Parishad Act, 1961. We would therefore vacate the interim stay granted by us earlier, but we propose to impose certain conditions which must be followed by the Zilla Parishad before any contract is given by auction. Bye-law (4) of the Bye-Laws provides for giving of a contract for collection and storage of skins, horns and bones of dead animals and bye-law (6) vests proprietory rights on the contractor over carcass, bones and horns. The form of the contract employed by the Zilla Parishad also provides that the contractor shall have "the ownership of dead animals, skins, bones and horns." The result is that as soon as an animal dies, the ownership of the carcass, bones and horns of the dead animal vests immediately in the contractor if bye-law (6) is valid and operative. It is really difficult for us to see how any bye-law made by the Zilla Parishad can possibly have the effect of transferring the property of the owner of the dead animal in the carcass, bones and horns to the contractor. The owner of the dead animal would continue to have proprietory rights in the carcass, bones and horns and when he leaves the dead animal and the flayer takes it over for the purpose of skinning, it may be possible to say that there is an implied gift of the carcass, horns and bones of the dead animal to the flayer. We cannot appreciate how the ownership of the carcass, bones and horns of the dead animal should get transferred to the contractor on the death of the animal. But, this is a matter which may require elaborate argument and we do not therefore propose to express final opinion upon it at this stage. We would however as an interim measure suspend the operation of bye-law (6) and impose a condition on the Zilla Parishad that in giving a contract under bye-law (4), the Zilla Parishad will not introduce any clause or provision vesting or conferring ownership rights in the carcass, bones and horns of dead animals in the contractor. The contract to be given by the Zilla Parishad will merely give a right to the contractor to collect and store hides, bones and horns and it will be open to the contractor to purchase hides, bones and horns from licenced flayers at a price not less than Rs. 30/- for the skin of each big carcass, 50 paise for each horn and Rs. 5/- per maund for bones. If the carcass is of smaller size, the price payable for the skin shall not be less than Rs. 15/- per carcass. These minimum prices will be exclusive of the transportation charges. The Zilla Parishad will also introduce a condition in the contract that the contractor shall have nothing to do with the grant of licences to flayers and he shall not interfere in any manner whatsoever with the making of applications by flayers for licences or with the grant of such licences, and that he will not pick and choose amongst the licenced flayers.;