The Delhi High Court on Thursday said ex-gratia cannot be denied to workers who returned to their villages due to lack of work in the wake of the COVID-19 merely because their physical verification cannot be carried out for being registered with the Building and Other Construction Workers Welfare (BOCWW) Board.
A bench of Justices Vipin Sanghi and Rajnish Bhatnagar said such workers may not return for sometime and therefore, verifications should be carried out over the phone or via video calls.
The high court also said that the option of physical verification at construction sites would be available to the workers if they want to opt for that mode.
The bench, however, did not agree with the contention of the Board, represented by Delhi government additional standing counsel Sanjoy Ghose and advocate Urvi Mohan, that verifications ought to be carried out physically at the large construction sites of big companies like DMRC and Larsen and Toubro.
It said that doing only physical verification would leave out those workers who have returned home due to lockdown and may not return for some time.
Therefore, such workers would not receive the ex-gratia till they return to Delhi if they have to undergo physical verification.
The observation and suggestion by the court came while hearing a plea. by social activist Sunil Kumar Aledia seeking registration of all construction workers here under the BOCWW Act so that they can get the benefit of the relief package/ex-gratia of Rs 5,000 per month being provided to each labourer during the lockdown.
The high court in its order also said that the Board should consider adopting a simpler form for renewal of registration of those workers who were registered earlier and same had lapsed over time for various reasons.
The bench had on the last date of hearing, on July 17, also suggested going for online verification of the applications for registration or its renewal to minimise human to human contact in view of the prevailing pandemic.
The bench on Thursday also allowed an application moved by Pt Sukhbir Sharma, a social activist who works for the welfare of the labourers, seeking to intervene in the matter to assist the court.
In the application filed through advocate Kush Sharma, Sukhbir Sharma has alleged that there has been "rampant misappropriation of statutory cess funds of about Rs 3,200 crores", meant for the benefit of registered constructionworkers in Delhi, by corrupt officials of the Board and some trade unions.
The applicant sought that he be permitted to place before the court an affidavit detailing the irregularities in the functioning of the Board and the bench allowed him to do so.
Aledia, in his plea filed through advocate Shiven Varma, has contended that only a small section out of the over 10 lakh workers in the city are registered under the laws regulating their welfare and service conditions and thus, a huge chunk of the labourers are not getting benefits actually meant for them.
The petition has contended that despite collection of over Rs 2,000 crore under the Building and Other Construction Workers Welfare Cess Act in the names of lakhs of workers, only around 37,127 construction labourers who are registered are getting the benefits.
It has also claimed that there has been gross under-registration of construction workers in the national capital since 2015.
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