New Delhi: The Delhi High Court on Tuesday asked the Centre and the Aam Aadmi Party government to respond to a PIL seeking CBI probe into alleged misappropriation in the Rs 3,200 crore cess fund meant for migrant and construction workers in the national capital.
A bench of Justices Vipin Sanghi and Rajnish Bhatnagar issued notices to the Centre, the Delhi government and Delhi Building and Other Construction Workers (DBOCW) Welfare Board and directed them to respond to the petition by NGO -- PT Deendayal Upadhyay Smriti Sansthan.
The court, which conducted the hearing through video conferencing, also impleaded Anti-Corruption Branch of Delhi government as a party in the petition and asked it to file the reply.
It listed the matter for further hearing on July 2.
Senior advocate Siddharth Luthra, appearing for the NGO, said some incriminating documents showed the alleged rampant corruption by the Delhi government and the welfare board and misutilisation of the Rs 3,200 crore Delhi Building Cess fund by fraudulently giving benefits to non-construction workers such as auto drivers, factory workers, tailors and hawkers.
The NGO, also represented through advocates Yogesh Pachauri, R Balaji and Nachiketa Joshi, said each state has its own 'Cess fund' which is collected for the owners/ employers of building and other construction works under the Building and Other Construction Workers (RE & CS) Act, by collecting one per cent on the cost incurred on the project.
Till recently Delhi Cess fund has collected around Rs 3,200 crore.
The fund was created exclusively for the benefit of registered construction workers.
During the hearing, Delhi government counsel Sanjoy Ghose submitted that the credentials of the organisation need to be verified.
The plea said that during the COVID-19 lockdown, it was announced by the Delhi government that Rs 5,000 per month will be transferred to all the registered construction workers.
However, when the organisation's volunteers enquired, the workers revealed that none of them have received any amount from the government, the plea added.
“The enquiry revealed that there was rampant corruption in registration of bogus construction workers and concerned authorities have registered non-construction workers as construction workers so that they can misappropriate the Cess fund,” it alleged.
It alleged that there is misappropriation of Rs 3,200 crore Cess fund which is managed by the Delhi Building and Other Construction Workers (DBOCW) Welfare Board due to bogus registration of lakhs of non-construction workers as construction workers without any verification and sought CBI probe into the purported large scale corruption.
It claimed that most of these bogus workers are security guards, auto and taxi drivers, factory and shop workers, house wives, maids, tailors and barbers.
“It is very shocking how these irregularities and loot are happening by the DBOCW Welfare Board headed by the Minister of Labour, Delhi government, who is also the Chairman of Board,” the lawyers said.
Besides seeking probe by CBI or an independent investigating agency, the organisation, through its president Vinod Kumar Shukla, has urged the court to direct the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) to conduct a detailed statutory audit of the accounts of the board as about Rs 150-200 crore have already been transferred in the bank accounts of non-construction workers who are living in Delhi since long in their own houses.
The petition said around 80 complaints have been lodged at a police station by the officials of the Labour Department and an FIR was registered by the Anti-Corruption Branch of Delhi government but nothing concrete has been done to stop the loot.
It claimed that the misappropriation of funds has been allegedly done by the dishonest employees of the Board, unions and other middlemen.