Construction workers: SC issues notices to States, UTs

New Delhi: Voicing concern over failure of states and Union Territories in implementing laws regulating employment of construction workers, the Supreme Court today issued notices to officials concerned asking them to explain why contempt proceedings should not be initiated against them.

A bench headed by Chief Justice S H Kapadia asked the officials to be personally present at the next date of hearing to explain their failure in implementing the law.

The court referred to the case of Uttar Pradesh, Jammu & Kashmir, Assam and other States where the government has failed in implementing the Building and Other Construction Workers (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1996.

“The court is left with no option but to issue show cause notice against the officials on why contempt proceedings should not be initiated against them,” the court said.

It noted that State governments have disobeyed various orders pronounced by the apex court relating to implementation of the said law and failed to perform their statutory functions.

The court was hearing a PIL seeking direction to the governments to implement the Building and Other Construction Workers (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1996.

The petition was filed by NGO National Campaign Committee for Construction Labour, which alleged that many States including Maharashtra, Goa, Nagaland and Chandigarh have failed to implement the law meant to regulate unorganised construction workers.

The Act says the appropriate government has to appoint registering officers and every employer shall register their establishment.

Under the law, the building workers are to be given various benefits and in order to enable the workers to avail the benefits, each State has to constitute a State Welfare Board.

The Board shall comprise a chairman nominated by the central government, and such other members, not exceeding 15, may be appointed by the State government.

The apex court was anguished that the Centre, which was authorised under the law to issue directions to State governments for setting up of welfare boards, did not exercise its power, which created a roadblock for disbursal of the cess collected for the benefits of workers.

During the earlier hearings, the court had pointed out that even the preliminary step for ensuring that boards are constituted by States have not been taken by the Centre as provided under section 60 of the Act (Building and other Construction Workers Act).

Senior advocate Collin Gonsalves, appearing for the petitioner NGO, had said except Tamil Nadu and Kerala, other States have failed to implement the laws.

The PIL alleged that despite the laws being there for over 10 years, neither the Centre nor the State governments have implemented them.