Construction workers contribute to nation building “in their own small way”, the Supreme Court said on Monday while directing the Centre and states to ensure that money collected from builders in the name of workers’ welfare is effectively utilised.
“There is a tremendous amount of construction activity going on all over the country and there is no reason why establishments involved in the construction activity, both formal as well as non-formal, should not pay the cess, especially when they are utilising the services of the construction workers… there is no reason why the construction workers should be denied their entitlements and benefits,” said a bench of Justice Madan B Lokur and Justice Deepak Gupta and asked the Ministry of Labour and Employment, state governments and Union territories to put in place at the earliest, proper machinery for registration of establishments and construction workers.
The court directed the Ministry to put in place by September 30 a model scheme which could be followed by all states and Union territories, in consultation with all stakeholders, including NGOs.
The order comes on a petition by National Campaign Committee for Central Legislation on Construction Labour. The petitioner contended that that the statutory cess collected from real estate firms under the Building and Other Construction Workers (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1996 (BOCW Act) and the Building and Other Construction Workers’ Welfare Cess Act, 1996 for welfare of construction workers was not being utilised properly for want of an effective mechanism to identify the beneficiaries.
According to an affidavit filed by the National Legal Services Authority (NALSA) on December 14, 2016, the amount of cess that ought to have been collected was about Rs 70,000 crore.
On this, the court said: “It must be appreciated that construction workers do not assist only in building infrastructure, but they also assist in building the nation, in their own small way. Once that realisation dawns upon those required to implement the BOCW Act and the Cess Act, perhaps due respect will be shown to Article 21 of the Constitution and to Parliamentary statutes.”