HC grants time to Delhi govt to decide on implementing CM's promise to pay rent to poor during COVID

Delhi High Court granted two weeks to Delhi government to decide on implementing Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal's announcement that if a poor tenant was unable to pay rent during the COVID-19 pandemic

Delhi High Court (Photo Courtesy: PTI)
Delhi High Court (Photo Courtesy: PTI)
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PTI

The Delhi High Court Friday granted two weeks to Delhi government to decide on implementing Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal's announcement that if a poor tenant was unable to pay rent during the COVID-19 pandemic, the state would pay it.

Delhi government's counsel Gautam Narayan told Justice Rekha Palli, who was hearing a plea alleging willful disobedience of the court's order directing a decision to be taken in this regard in six weeks, that the matter was under consideration and sought two weeks to arrive at a conclusion.

On July 22, the court had ruled that a Chief Minister's promise to citizens was enforceable and directed the AAP government to decide within six weeks on Kejriwal's announcement that the state would pay rent on behalf of a poor tenant who are unable to do so on account of COVID-19.

The petitioners, who claimed to be daily wagers and workers and sought to enforce the promise made by Kejriwal on during a press conference on March 29 last year, stated in their application that the failure of the authorities in taking a decision in terms of the order impinged upon their right to shelter.

The 6 weeks expired on 02.09.2021. However, GNCTD has not yet complied with the above direction. Requests dated 29.08.2021 and 30.08.2021 made by Najma (P1), Karan Singh (P4) and Rehana Bibi (P5) have not been responded, the petition filed through advocate Gaurav Jain reads.

The plea added that until a decision is taken, a clear policy on the payment of rent cannot be formed.

By wilfully disobeying the judgment/direction of this Court, respondent have also entered the territory of 'Contempt of Court', it is asserted.

In the order, Justice Prathiba M Singh had opined that against the backdrop of a commitment made by the Chief Minster, a lack of decision making or indecision was contrary to law.

A statement given in a consciously held press conference, in the background of the lockdown announced due to the pandemic and the mass exodus of migrant labourers, cannot be simply overlooked. Proper governance requires the government to take a decision on the assurance given by the CM, and inaction on the same cannot be the answer, the court said in its 89-page verdict.

It said the assurance was not a political promise , as was sought to be canvassed as it was not made as a part of an election rally but it was the statement made by the Delhi Chief Minister.

The statement was not made by a government functionary at a lower level in the hierarchy, who could be devoid of such knowledge. The CM is expected to have had the said knowledge and is expected to exercise his authority to give effect to his promise/assurance, the court said, adding that a citizen would believe that the CM has spoken on behalf of his government while making the promise.

The matter would be heard next on September 27.

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