Apex court demands action on building workers’ welfare laws

January 13th, 2009 - 10:17 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Jan 13 (IANS) The Supreme Court Tuesday expressed grave concern over non-implementation of two laws enacted for the welfare of construction workers and asked various state governments to apprise it of the progress in implementing these legislations.A bench of Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan and Justice P. Sathasivam asked various state governments to file by the first week of May their status reports on implementation of the two laws.

The laws are: the Building and Other Construction Workers (Regulation of Employment and other Services) Act, 1996, and the Building and Other Construction Workers Welfare Cess Act, 1996.

The bench issued the directions while hearing a public interest lawsuit by a civil rights body, National Campaign Committee for Central Legislation on Construction Workers.

The bench also asked the chief secretaries of various states to ensure that the relevant rules, required for implementation of the welfare laws, be framed at the earliest.

The bench said the states which were yet to frame the rules should adopt those framed by Delhi as a model.

The bench also directed expeditious constitution of labour welfare boards and the labour advisory committees as provided under the two laws.

The bench sought the details of the states’ collection of cess for the construction workers from the construction companies as provided by the Building and Other Construction Workers Welfare Cess Act, 1996.

Upset by non-implementation of the two laws enacted more than a decade ago, the bench during a hearing on May 12, 2008, scoffed at the governments’ practice of adorning the statute books with “beautiful laws” but leaving them dead.

“What’s the purpose of such acts? Does the government want only to have beautiful laws but never want to implement them?” the apex court asked.

Seeking implementation of the law, counsel Colin Gonsalves contended that the law provides for various welfare measures for construction workers, including education facilities for their children, health services for them and their family members and compensation to their family members in the case of their death at the construction site.

Gonsalves said the law even provides for collection of one percent cess on the total cost of construction of a building from the builders, but none of the states collects it from builders.

He said though Delhi has collected a cess of Rs.1.2 billion from the builders, the government is not able to utilise the sum for the welfare of the construction workers for the want of any institutional mechanism for the purpose.

Gonsalves said only Gujarat, which collected a cess of Rs.800 million, has been able to utilise part of this sum for welfare of the workers.

Maintaining that the government has done precious little for the welfare of the workers despite a lapse of 12 years since enactment of the law, Gonsalves said that even the status report, filed by various state governments to the court, has only sketchy details about their implementation of the laws.

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