Construction workers cannot be deprived of ‘Right to pension’

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Recently, the Delhi High Court has ruled that, Construction workers cannot be deprived of their right to pension “merely due to hyper-technical issues” or requirements such as “production of original MR Slips or serial number of the notary records”. Construction workers in India:
  • The building and other construction workers (BOCW) are the most vulnerable segment of the unorganized sector workers in India.
  • They work under aggravating conditions with uncertain future.
  • A large chunk of them are migrant labourers working in different states far away from their native places.
  • They play a significant role in nation-building yet find themselves on the margins of the society.
About the ruling:
  • The observations were made while granting relief to a construction worker who had applied to the Delhi Building and Other Construction Workers Welfare board for release of her pension as per Rule 372 but the pension benefits were not released.
  • The application for pension of the petitioner was rejected on the ground that she was not a member of the Board on the ‘date of superannuation’.
  • The Petitioner in this petition fulfilled the conditions laid down in the Act and the Rules for release of pension and other benefits.
  • Reviewing the situation, court mentioned that the period of contribution extended by beyond her retirement or that the renewal of membership was done after the age of superannuation cannot lead to the denial of pensionary benefits.
  • The court also observed that “The Delhi (Right of Citizen to Time Bound Delivery of Services) Act, 2011, entry 372, specifies 30 days as the period during which the pension application has to be processed.
  • The SOP of the BOCW Board stipulates disposal within 60 days.
The BOCW boards are meant to carry out welfare activities for workers from the cess on construction collected by States.
  • Thus, it is clear that once a pension benefit application is made by the construction worker, bearing in mind the financial status of such workers, the said application ought to be processed without any delay.
  • Accordingly, there is no justification for not processing the application for pension of the Petitioner.
Basis of Judicial Intervention:
  • For Fundamental Rights – The exclusion of gig workers from the category of unorganised workers is violative of their fundamental rights under Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution.
  • Against Forced labour – Denial of social benefits amounts to exploitation through forced labour, within the meaning of Article 23.
About the Building and Other Construction Workers Act, 1996:
  • Enacted to regulate the employment and conditions of service of these workers and to provide for their safety, health and welfare measures.
  • Under the Act, the State Governments through their State Welfare Boards are mandated to frame and implement welfare schemes for construction workers.
  • The fund, under the legislation, comprises the Cess @1% of construction costs which is levied and collected by the State Governments and remitted to the Welfare Fund.
What is the proposed law for gig workers?
  • National Commission on Labour –It recommended to consolidate central labour laws.
    • Hence, the Ministry of Labour and Employment introduced the Code on Social Security, 2020which brings workers within the ambit of labour laws for the first time.
  • Social Security Schemes –The Code stipulates that Central and State Governments must frame suitable social security schemes for gig workers.
    • The Code also mandates the compulsory registration of all gig workers to avail of benefits under these schemes.
  • National Social Security Board –The Code also envisages the constitution of a National Social Security Board by the Central government to monitor the implementation of such schemes.

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