New Delhi: The Supreme Court on Monday directed the central and state governments to implement two legislations that govern the welfare of construction workers in the unorganized sector.
The laws are Building and Other Construction Workers (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act (BOCW Act), 1996, and the Building and Other Construction Workers’ Welfare Cess Act, 1996.
Noting that the “information regarding the collection and utilization of cess suggests nothing but a complete mess", the apex court directed the labour ministry, state governments and Union territory administrations to establish and strengthen the machinery for registration of establishments and construction workers, as well as collection of statutory welfare cess, within a specified time frame.
The court also directed the labour ministry to frame a comprehensive model scheme for education, health, social security, old age and disability pension and other benefits for construction workers.
This scheme should be drafted in consultation with all stakeholders, including non-governmental organizations (NGOs) who are actually working at the grassroots level with construction workers, on or before 30 September, the court said.
The court further directed the centre and states to conduct a social audit on the implementation of the BOCW Act to ensure effective implementation.
“There can be no doubt that the BOCW Act and its sister legislation, the Cess Act, are social justice legislation. They were enacted keeping in mind the Directive Principles of State Policy, particularly Article 39 of the Constitution, which requires the State to direct its policy to secure the health and strength of workers and Article 42 of the Constitution concerning just and humane conditions of work. In addition, Article 21 of the Constitution cannot be forgotten," the judgement noted.
The directions were issued by a bench comprising justices M.B. Lokur and Deepak Gupta on a public interest litigation case filed by non-profit National Campaign Committee for Central Legislation on Construction Labour.
The petition alleged non-utilization of statutory cess levied on real estate firms for the welfare of construction workers.