On Thursday (July 22), the Delhi HC came down hard on Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal for not fulfilling his promise Of paying rent for poor made during a press conference on March 29 last year. The verdict came in response to petition filed in the court by migrant workers and a landlord seeking payment of house rent from the Delhi government.
The pleas were heard by a single-judge bench of Justice
The pleas were heard by a single-judge bench of Justice Pratibha M Singh. In a significant judgement, the Delhi High Court ruled, “This court is of the opinion that the promise/assurance/representation given by the CM clearly amounts to an enforceable promise, the implementation of which ought to be considered by the Government. Good governance requires that promises made to citizens, by those who govern, are not broken, without valid and justifiable reasons.”
Delhi government had promised to pay the rent of poor tenants on their behalf
It must be mentioned that the Delhi government, in a press conference held on March 29, 2020, had promised to pay the rent of poor tenants on their behalf. He had also requested all landlords to postpone the collection of rent from poor tenants. The petitioners argued that it was as ‘clear promise’ made by Arvind Kejriwal to the poor tenants of Delhi, As such, the court held that any assurance by the Chief Minister of a State is enforceable as per the doctrine of promissory estoppel and legitimate expectations.
Delhi HC asked CM Arvind Kejriwal to take a final decision and inform with in 6 weeks
The assurance given by the CM has to be considered by the Government and a decision has to be taken whether to implement or not implement the same,” it emphasised. Justice Pratibha M Singh directed the Delhi government to frame a policy as per the assurance given by Kejriwal and cite reasons if they decide not to implement the policy. The court also made it clear that a decision in the same must be reached within a period of 6 weeks.
Delhi government is bound by its said assurance- Gaurav Jain
Advocate Gaurav Jain, representing the petitioners, emphasised that the Right to Shelter falls under the category of fundamental right and the Delhi government is bound by its said assurance. He argued that the trust reposed on the CM by the citizens will be completely breached if the said promise is not kept. Advocate Rahul Mehra, representing the Government of Delhi, claimed that the doctrine of legitimate expectation can only be based on an executive decision/government notification or policy and not a “political statement.”
It is not the absence of positive decision but the lack of decision making
The Court observed that it is not the absence of positive decision but the lack of decision making, which is contrary to the law of the land. Justice Pratibha M Singh said, “Once the CM made a solemn assurance, there was a duty cost on the GNCTD to take a stand as to whether to enforce the said promise or not and if so on what grounds or on the basis of what reasons.” The Delhi High Court further added that announcements made in a press conference, in the backdrop of the pandemic, lockdown, and migrant crisis, cannot be overlooked.
“The statements made by the person in power are trusted by the public who repose faith and believe in the same. Thus, “puffing” which may be permissible in commercial advertising, ought not to be recognizable and permissible in governance,” it said. The Court concluded that such public assurances, even in the absence of a formal policy, create a ‘valuable and legal right’ for the petitions based on the promissory estoppel doctrine.