Ramakanta Biswas

The Orissa High Court has directed the State government to undertake a special audit of funds meant for construction workers and disbursal of the amount to the beneficiaries under the Building and Other Construction Workers’ (Regulation of Employment & Conditions of Services) Rules.

A division bench of Chief Justice S Muralidhar and Justice MS Raman has directed the concerned authorities to wrap up the special audit of all the amounts collected and disbursed under the BOCW Act in six months.

During the hearing, Mrinalini Padhi appearing for the Odisha State Legal Services Authority pointed out that by the end of December 2022, a balance of Rs 579,49,41,575 remains unutilized. This was not disputed by Ishwar Mohanty, Additional Standing Counsel for the State.

"Considering that the unutilized amount is considerable and the Building & Construction Workers’ (Cess) Act (BOCW Act) was meant essentially to cater to the needs of the building and construction workers, the Court considers it necessary to require the State to get a special audit undertaken of all the amounts collected and the disbursal of the amounts under the BOCW Act and the Rules keeping in view the directions of the Supreme Court as well as the object and spirit of the BOCW Act and Rules," the court said.

The court has directed the Odisha Building & Other Construction Workers Welfare Board to ensure separate accounting of the amounts collected as cess from the employer, Rs 50 per beneficiary collected under Rule 267 of the Rules and Rs 20 collected from the construction worker for registration under Section 12(3) of the BOCW Act.

"The Board will file an affidavit that the provisions of the BOCW Act and Rules have been strictly followed in letter and spirit and that the benefits reached every construction and building worker as is intended by the BOCW Act and Rules," the court directed.

The court has asked the government to submit the special audit report with an affidavit before the next date which is scheduled on July 31, 2023. 

Reported by Gautam Panda, OTV