The Delhi High Court Thursday did not concur with the Delhi Building and Other Construction Workers Welfare Board’s insistence on physical presence of construction workers for renewal of their registration, observing that many labourers have already returned to their villages amid the pandemic and shut down of construction sites.
A bench of Justices Vipin Sanghi and Rajnish Bhatnagar also did not agree with the Board’s contention that the relaxation of physical presence will lead to allegations that it did not discharge its duty efficiently.
“…Firstly, it is our suggestion that the verification process should be undertaken on telephone or through video-call. Secondly, the guidelines… state that the process of verification be undertaken online, telephonically or through video-call… Physical verification may also leave out many construction workers who are entitled to renewal of registration, since many of them have gone back to their native places on account of lockdown,” it said.
The bench said that if the “physical verification is insisted upon, all such workers would not be able to renew their registration and receive their ex-gratia amount, till they return to Delhi. It may not happen for months…”
It ordered the 25 advocates, who have been engaged as field verification officers for verifying applications for renewal of registration, to start their work “forthwith”.
Applications for fresh registrations and renewals were received from May 15 to June 29, after a reduction in the number of workers registered with the board between 2015 and 2020 came under the HC’s scanner following a report in The Indian Express, based on a PIL by activist Sunil Kumar Aledia.
With the number of active workers registered with the board in Delhi coming down from over 5 lakh to around 40,000, many could not avail the lockdown assistance of Rs 5,000 each disbursed in April and May from the cess fund.
The Delhi government additional standing counsel Sanjoy Ghose and advocate Urvi Mohan, appearing for Delhi government and the Board, informed the court that they aggressively set up verification camps at construction sites as most workers do not have smartphones. “That will obviate the kind of hardship. The kind of inconvenience to the workers,” Ghose submitted.
To which, the bench responded, “My registered mobile may not have that facility. (But) I can certainly borrow from co-workers or my superior’s phone for that purpose, to make a call or to talk (for verification)…”
It further observed that there is a guideline in place for just an audio call or you can also go for the video call for verification of the details.
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