SC Slams Centre For Ignoring Construction Workers’ Welfare

“You are not implementing the law meant for the welfare of construction workers. Why don’t you come out and formally state that the orders passed by  us are being thrown in the dustbin and so please do not pass any more orders?”,an angry Justice Madan B Lokur to ASG Maninder Singh

Pulling up the Centre for not implementing rules for the welfare of construction workers, the Supreme Court has question why over Rs 37,000 crores collected as cess under the 1996 Act is not reaching them to be used for their benefit.

“It is a completely helpless situation. It is crystal clear, very evident that the government is not serious. What is happening at the ground is that you collect money but do not give it to those for whom it has been collected”, a bench headed by justice Madan B Lokur told Additional Solicitor General Maninder Singh, who was representing the government.

This way it was clear that the Building and Other Construction Workers (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1996, cannot be implemented at all, the court said.

 “You are not implementing the law meant for the welfare of construction workers. Why don’t you come out and formally state that the orders passed by  us are being thrown in the dustbin?”,said an angry Justice Lokur

Maintaining that it was “a completely helpless situation”, it said “if the government is not serious, tell us. What you are doing is that you are collecting money but not giving it to those (construction workers) for whom the money has been collected.”

“Over Rs 37,000 crore has been collected as cess under the 1996 Act. The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) had earlier in an affidavit told the court that funds meant for construction workers’ welfare were being spent to buy laptops and washing machines”, it said.

The PIL by National Campaign Committee for Central Legislation on Construction Labour alleged that the statutory cess levied on real estate firms for the welfare of construction workers was not being utilised properly as there was no mechanism to identify the beneficiaries to extend the benefits.

Singh told the bench about a recent meeting of the monitoring committee consisting of labour secretaries of all states and union territories but the bench said “attitude of the government is reflected by the minutes of the meeting”.

 The ASG told the court that implementation of the Act has to be centralised since the states have their own views.

Senior counsel Colin Gonsalves, appearing for petitioner said the recent meeting to discuss these issues was over in less than two hours and nothing substantial was done.

The bench then referred to the prayer in the petition and told Gonsalves, “From the meeting and the minutes, it is clear that the Act cannot be implemented.”

During the arguments, the ASG told the bench that the Act meant for welfare of construction workers has to work with the aim with which it has been enacted.

The apex court had earlier stressed the need for involving civil society to effectively manage the laws for welfare of construction workers and asked the Centre to take assistance from NGOs concerned with their welfare.