BUILDERS ASSOCIATION OF INDIA Vs. UNION OF INDIA
HIGH COURT OF DELHI
Builders Association of India and Ors. etc. etc.
Union of India (UOI) and Ors. etc. etc.
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S. Muralidhar, J. -
(1.) THE challenge in these writ petitions, and the connected appeals against interim orders, is to the constitutional validity of:
(a) The Building and Other Construction Workers (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1996 ('BOCW Act').
(b) The Building and Other Construction Workers' Welfare Cess Act, 1996 ('Cess Act').
(c) The Building and Other Construction Workers (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Central Rules, 1998 ('Central Rules').
(d) The Building and Other Construction Workers' Welfare Cess Rules, 1998 ('Cess Rules').
(e) The Delhi Building and Other Construction Workers' (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Rules, 2002 ('Delhi Rules').
(2.) THE challenge to the statutes is by contractors who have entered into construction contracts. They are either in the process of executing the contract or have completed it. The contracts are with various government departments agencies or public sector undertakings (PSUs) for works to be executed in the National Capital Territory of Delhi. Beginning 2006, an amount Constituting 1% of each of their bills, from 2002 onwards, has been sought to be levied towards cess payable under the Cess Act. While a demand towards cess has been raised for past payments, the current charges are being collected by deducting the 1% amount from the current bills at source. The contractors challenge the constitutional validity of the Cess Act principally on the ground of lack of legislative competence in Parliament to enact it. The BOCW Act is challenged for vagueness. The Central Rules, the Cess Rules and the Delhi Cess Rules are assailed on the ground that they are arbitrary and unconstitutional. Against the order dated 23.5.2006 of the learned Single Judge of this Court vacating interim orders of stay of the demand of cess, several appeals have been filed and these are also being disposed of by this judgment.
The BOCW Act 1996
The background to the making of the BOCW Act, is set out in the Statement of Objects and Reasons ('SOR') appended to the Bill preceding its enactment. The relevant portion of the SOR reads as follows:
It is estimated that about 8.5 million workers in the country are engaged in building and other construction works. Building and other construction workers are one of the most numerous and vulnerable segments of the unorganized labour in India. The building and other construction works are characterized by their inherent risk to the life and limb of the workers. The work is also characterized by its casual nature, temporary relationship between employer and employee, uncertain working hours, lack of basic amenities and inadequacy of welfare facilities. In the absence of adequate statutory provisions, the requisite information regarding the number and nature of accidents is also not forthcoming. In the absence of such information, it is difficult to fix responsibility or to take any corrective action.
Although the provisions of certain Central Acts are applicable to the building and other construction workers yet a need has been felt for a comprehensive Central Legislation for regulating their safety, health, welfare and other conditions of service.
(3.) THE SOR explained that Welfare Boards were proposed to be constituted in every state "so as to provide and monitor social security schemes and welfare measures for the benefit of building and other construction workers." It was pointed out that this was an improvement over the erstwhile the Building and Other Construction Workers (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Bill, 1988 which had been introduced in the Rajya Sabha on the 5th December, 1988.;
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