The Supreme Court on Friday slammed the Centre for not giving compensation to workers for delayed payment of work under MNREGA scheme in drought-like situation and said it "does not behove a welfare state" as "social justice has been thrown out of the window".
The apex court said it was extremely unfortunate that government had no provision for providing compensation to the workers and it was also regrettable that it cleared the pending wage bill for 2015-16, only during the pendency of the case and "the government of India must shape up in this regard".
"...a worker is entitled to compensation at the rate of 0.05 per cent per day for delayed payment of the wages due. We are quite pained to note that the government of India has made no provision for this compensation while releasing the wages for 2015-16 of Rs 7,983 crores.
"This is extremely unfortunate and certainly does not behove a welfare State in any situation, more so in a drought situation. Social justice has been thrown out of the window by the government of India," a bench comprising Justices M B Lokur and N V Ramana said.
The Centre has admitted before the apex court that the pending wage bill under MNREGA scheme till March 31, 2016 was around Rs 7,983 crores.
However, later the Centre in its affidavit has said in April that an amount Rs 11,030 crore will be released to the states within one week which will take care of the pending wage bill including Rs 2,723 crore of ten drought-affected states where additional 50 days of employment is given to households.
"The government of India is directed to ensure that compensation for delayed payment is made to the workers whose wages have been delayed beyond 15 days as postulated by paragraph 29 of Schedule II of NREG Act and the Guidelines for Compensation formulated pursuant thereto.
"Both the state governments and the government of India are directed to make all efforts to encourage needy persons to come forward and take advantage of the scheme. A success rate below 50 per cent is nothing to be proud of," the bench said in its three-part judgement given today concerning different drought-related issues. The first one was pronounced on May 11.