NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court today set the deadline of September 30 for the Centre to finalise a welfare scheme for building and construction workers across the country.
A bench comprising justices Madan B Lokur and Deepak Gupta made it clear to the government that "no further time" would be granted to it for finalising the welfare scheme.
The counsel appearing for the Centre referred to an affidavit filed by the government which has said that a draft scheme has been uploaded on the website of the labour ministry and suggestions have been invited from the states till August 10.
The Centre told the apex court that others could also give their suggestion on the draft scheme till August 30 and the scheme would be finalised by September 30.
Senior advocate Colin Gonsalves, appearing for the petitioner, told the bench that the draft scheme was "as bad as" the earlier draft which was framed by the Centre.
"This draft scheme is so bad," he said, adding, "All suggestions given by the NALSA (National Legal Services Authority) and us are not there."
However, the Centre said the states were supposed to give their suggestion on the draft scheme and the petitioner could also raise objections on it.
When the lawyer said it would be finalised by September 30, the bench asked, "Why you want so much of time?" Responding to the query, the lawyer said all the suggestions and objections would be considered by the authorities before finalising the scheme and it would take some time.
"List the matter in the first week of October. No further time will be granted (to finalise the scheme)," the bench said.
On July 3, the apex court had pulled up the Centre for not uploading the draft of the welfare scheme on the labour ministry website and had dubbed its affidavit as "absolutely false".
"You are making a joke out of it. Rs 30,000 crore is at stake. Who is suffering? These poor people. Is this the kind of sympathy and compassion which you are showing towards poor people," the top court had said and had summoned the Union labour secretary.
The labour secretary had appeared in the court and assured the bench that he would look into the issues raised by the petitioner and another draft scheme would be put up on the website of the ministry.
The court had earlier too lashed out at the Centre after an affidavit was filed by the comptroller and auditor general saying that a chunk of funds meant for construction workers' welfare had been spent to buy laptops and washing machines and less than ten per cent was spent for the actual purpose.
This had prompted the apex court to direct the government to frame a model scheme for the welfare of construction workers across the country to address the issues of education, health, social security and pension for them.
The court is hearing a matter related to implementation of two laws -- the Building and Other Construction Workers (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1996 (BOCW Act) and the Building and Other Construction Workers' Welfare Cess Act, 1996, (Cess Act) -- meant for welfare of construction workers across the country.