Supreme Court Stops Grant to States That Haven't Registered Domestic Workers

newsimageIn a strong step, the Supreme Court has restrained the central government from disbursing any more funds for the states, which have not registered the domestic workers till date. India has around 48 lakh domestic workers, including 30 lakh women. But the unorganised workforce is bereft of social security cover, fair terms of employment, grievance redressal and dispute resolution for want of a regulatory and institutional mechanism. A bench headed by Justice Kurian Joseph issued the stern directive after noting that despite a decade of a benevolent law coming into force, benefits remained elusive for the domestic workers and that they represented a new low in terms of disempowerment. "It is directed that the central government shall not disburse any further grants to the States, which have not registered the domestic workers," directed the bench on May 15. The court order has been made available recently. The apex court had also sought action taken reports from all the states and union territories regarding the steps to register domestic workers as per the mandate of the Unorganised Workers’ Social Security Act, 2008. The bench, also comprising Justice Mohan M Shanatanagoudar, made chief secretaries and principal secretaries of the administrative departments liable for submitting status reports on the progress in terms of the its previous orders. In March 2017, the court has given the central government three months' time to constitute National Social Security Board in terms of the Act. Complying with the order, the Board was set up by the Centre in May 2017 and the court, by an order in August 2017, directed the Board to submit a report on the steps taken to register workers, and provide social security benefits to them. "As a pilot project, there will be direction to the Government of NCT of Delhi to take steps forthwith to see that the domestic workers in Delhi are registered under The Unorganised Workers Social Security Act, 2008 by eliciting cooperation of all the duty holders," it had further directed. In February this year, the bench ordered the Union Labour Secretary to make certain the registration of domestic workers must begin from February, 2018. "We make it clear that the process of registration will include not only the registration but also the issuance of identity cards and extension of other benefits," directed the court, asking the Labour Secretary to submit a status report by May 15. The bench had then also made all states and union territories party to the petition, which haz been filed by NGO Shramjeevi Mahila Samiti. The group, led by senior lawyer Colin Gonsalves, has sought to highlight the plight and harassment of the domestic workers, which are subjected to trafficking and are made to suffer owing to the collusion between the placement agencies and the police. On the last date of hearing, the Centre informed the court that registration of the workers has begun. The bench posted the matter for further directions on August 8 while issuing order that no monies shall be disbursed by the Centre to the states that do not register domestic workers. ​