The Supreme Court of India today said that it was shocking to know that the money, meant for the welfare of construction workers across the nation, and which was supposed to go to the poorest people of the country was going "somewhere else".
The apex court bench comprising Justices M B Lokur and Deepak Gupta further observed that there was no record as to how Rs 5,000 crore out of a total of around Rs 26,000 crore was spent.
The bench asked the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) to file an audit report in the matter within two weeks.
"Out of these Rs 26,000 crore, Rs 5,000 crore have been spent. We do not know where the money has been spent. You have to ensure that it is not spent in tea or lunch," a bench comprising Justices M B Lokur and Deepak Gupta told Additional Solicitor General (ASG) Maninder Singh.
"Lot of money is involved in this. It is supposed to go to the poorest people of the country. It is not going to them. It is going somewhere else. It is a very important matter. The money should reach to the poorest people," the bench said.
Singh told the bench that money was lying with the state governments and "it is not that the money has disappeared". The apex court, however, observed that what has been told to it was shocking and the Centre must find out a solution to deal with the situation.
"What has been told to us is very shocking. You have to find out a solution. It is a matter of 26,000 crore," the bench asked the ASG. Senior lawyer Colin Gonsalves, who was appearing for the petitioner, claimed that huge amount of money was transferred and it was being used for "all kind of sundry purposes".
"Roughly, how much will be the amount," the bench asked a CAG official, who was present in the court. Responding to the court's query, the official said the total amount may be around Rs 28,000 crore.
When the apex court asked the official about the Rs 5,000 crore which has been spent, he said, "we will look into it and give an audit report". The bench has fixed the matter for hearing on May 5.
The CAG had earlier told the court that they would file an affidavit giving the latest status with regard to the audit of the funds meant for welfare of construction workers across the nation.
The court had earlier in 2015 expressed displeasure over non-utilisation of a whopping Rs 27,000 crore by the Centre and various state governments, saying it cannot get worse than this.
The apex court had also said it was "ridiculous" that the money meant for these workers was spent on the 'babus' and advertisements. The court was hearing the PIL filed by an NGO, National Campaign Committee for Central Legislation on Construction Labour, alleging that the statutory cess levied from real estate firms for the welfare of construction workers was not being utilised properly as there was no mechanism to identify the beneficiaries for extending the benefit.
The court had earlier asked Haryana, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Delhi governments to "file their submissions on affidavit with regard to collection and utilisation of the amounts and proposals for utilisation within two weeks."
The court had passed the order after certain facts were pointed out to it, including that Haryana had over the years collected Rs 1314.86 crore under the Building and Other Construction Workers' Welfare Cess Act, but disbursed only Rs 52 crore, with even the details of which being unavailable.
The amicus curiae had also told the court that Rajasthan had collected Rs 588.36 crore, but disbursed only Rs 59.45 crore, the details of which were also not available.
(With PTI inputs)