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A construction worker is a 'consumer' under Consumer Protection Act, 1986 in lis qua welfare scheme framed under the Building and Other Construction Workers Act, 1996; SC.

Supreme Court of India

Justice D Y Chandrachud & Justice Ajay Rastogi

The SC {The Joint Labour Commissioner and Registering Officer and Anr v. Kesar Lal} holds as a matter of interpretation, the provisions contained in the Consumer Protection Act 1986 must be construed in a purposive manner. It was held that parliament has provided a salutary remedy to consumers of both goods and services. It was further held that public authorities such as the appellants who have been constituted under an enactment of Parliament are entrusted with a solemn duty of providing welfare services to registered workers. It was held that the workers who are registered with the Board make contributions on the basis of which they are entitled to avail of the services provided in terms of the schemes notified by the Board. Public accountability is a significant consideration which underlies the provisions of the Consumer Protection Act 1986. It was also held that the evolution of jurisprudence in relation to the enactment reflects the need to ensure a sense of public accountability by allowing consumers a redressal in the context of the discharge of non-sovereign functions which are not rendered free of charge. It was held that this test is duly met in the present case.  

It was held that so long as the service which has been rendered is not rendered free of charge, any deficiency of service is amenable to the fora for redressal constituted under the Consumer Protection Act 1986. It was further held that the Act does not require an enquiry into whether the cost of providing the service is entirely defrayed from the price which is paid for availing of the service. Further held that from the definition contained in Section 2(1)(d), a ‘consumer’ includes not only a person who has hired or availed of service but even a beneficiary of a service. It was held that the registered workers are clearly beneficiaries of the service provided by the Board in a statutory capacity.

In the present case, the issue was whether a construction worker who is registered under the Building and Other Construction Workers (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1996 and is a beneficiary of the Scheme made under the Rules framed pursuant to the enactment, is a ‘consumer’ within the meaning of Section 2(d) of the Consumer Protection Act 1986 and whether a beneficiary of a statutory welfare scheme is entitled to exact accountability by invoking the remedies under the Consumer Protection Act 1986. In view of aforesaid, the SC answered it in affirmative. 

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