What purpose laws if not implemented, asks court

May 12th, 2008 - 8:42 pm ICT by admin  


New Delhi, May 12 (IANS) The Supreme Court Monday took a dig at the government, rhetorically asking what was the purpose of enacting “beautiful laws” if it did not want to implement these. The bench of Chief Justice K.G. Balakrishnan made the caustic observation while hearing a public interest lawsuit seeking implementation of various welfare measures meant for millions of construction workers.

“What’s the purpose of such acts? Does the government want only to have beautiful laws but never want to implement them?” the bench observed. The bench also included Justices R.V. Raveendran and M.K. Sharma.

The suit has sought implementation of the Building and other Construction Workers (Regulation of Employment and other Services) Act, 1996.

Advocate Collin Gonsalves in his petition said the law provides for various welfare measures for construction workers, including education facilities for their children, health services to them and their family members, and compensation to the family if the worker died at the construction site.

Gonsalves said the law even provides for collection of one percent cess on the cost of construction of a building from the builders, but no state collects it.

He said Delhi has collected a cess of Rs.1.2 billion from builders, but the government is not able to utilize the fund for the welfare of construction workers due to want of an institutional mechanism.

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

Maintaining that the government has done precious little for the welfare of workers despite 12 years since enactment of the law, Gonsalves said even the status reports filed by state governments have only sketchy details about what they have done to implement the law.

Gonsalves said it is two years since the court asked state governments to implement the law, but they are not levying cess on the builders.

Gonsalves alleged that the states are not implementing the law because the builders have a very strong lobby and have been able to persuade the state governments to sit idle on the law.

This prompted the bench to ask the government’s law officer: “What action is the government taking?”

The bench suggested making welfare secretaries of all states a party to the suit so that the court can issue separate direction to them.

The bench also issued directions to all states and the union government to file comprehensive affidavits on the steps they have taken to implement the law and welfare measures for construction workers.

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