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Delhi High Court Refuses To Vacate Stay On Direction To Enforce CM's Speech Promising Rent Relief

Nupur Thapliyal
5 July 2022 7:00 AM GMT
Chief Ministers Promise In Press Conference Enforceable : Delhi High Court Directs To Implement Kejriwals Assurance On Rent Payment For Poor

The Delhi High Court on Tuesday dismissed a plea challenging an order passed last year which had temporarily stayed a single judge order making promises extended by Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal for payment of rent on behalf of poor tenants enforceable.

The stay was granted in an appeal preferred by the Delhi Government against the single judge order.

A division bench comprising of Chief Justice Satish Chandra Sharma and Justice Subramonium Prasad was dealing with an application seeking vacation of stay of the order dated 27th September 2021 vide which the then Chief Justice led bench had kept in abeyance the operation and implementation of the single judge order. The application was filed by daily wage labourers and workers who were petitioners before the Single Judge.

Today, the Court took into account an order passed by the Supreme Court in February this year vide which challenge to the order in question was dismissed.

"The challenge to the order was returned by the Supreme Court and this Court does not find any reason to vacate the interim order. The matter is already fixed for final hearing. List on the date already fixed," the Bench ordered.

During the course of hearing, Advocate Gaurav Jain appearing for the petitioners apprised the Court that in view of the stay granted, the tenants are being told by the landlords to either pay the back rent or to leave the place.

"Some of them are finding it extremely difficult to pay existing rent. They are not able to shift ad the landlord is saying that till the time the entire rent is not paid, they cannot leave. They are saying that in case they want to leave, they have to leave some of their stuff. This is confiscating their stuff. It is happening right now," Jain submitted.

The Bench was also apprised that the stay was passed by way of an ex parte ad interim order in September last year and that as per the provisions of CPC, the same cannot be continued for such a long period of time.

Opposing the said argument, Gautam Narayan appearing for Delhi Government relied on the Supreme Court's order rejecting the SLP challenging the stay. He also argued that the impugned order was not an ex parte order and that arguments were advanced by the opposite party as recorded in the order.

Perusing the impugned order, the Court was of the view that the same was certainly not an ex parte order.

Accordingly, the application seeking vacation of stay was dismissed and the matter has now been fixed for hearing in November.

Four days into the nation-wide lockdown, i.e., on March 29, 2020, the Delhi CM apparently held a press conference requesting all landlords to postpone the demand/collection of rent from those tenants who were poor and poverty stricken. Arvind Kejriwal had further said that the Government would pay rent on behalf of tenants if they are unable to do so due to poverty.

In a judgment passed by Justice Pratibha Singh in July last year, it was held that a promise or assurance given by the Chief Minister in a press conference amounts to an enforceable promise and that a CM is expected to exercise his authority to give effect to such a promise.

About impugned judgment

According to the Petitioners, a solemn assurance was given that the Government would take care of the tenants.

It was thus stated that not only has the Delhi Government not honoured the promise made by the CM in the press conference, but in fact none of the communications sent by the Petitioners and similarly situated individuals to the Government were responded to.

Relying on plethora of judgments, the Court had reiterated that the two doctrines of promissory estoppel and legitimate expectation have their genesis in the concept of trust between citizen and the Government and that good governance requires the said trust to be maintained between those who govern and those who are governed.

The Court had further observed that the CM and the Council of Ministers are to aid and advise the Governor in the exercise of his functions, and an assurance given by the CM, in a press conference, i.e., a public platform, even without resulting in a formal policy or an order on behalf of the GNCTD, would create a valuable and legal right by applying the doctrine of promissory estoppel.

It had thus remarked:

"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."

"The CM is expected to have had the said knowledge and is expected to exercise his authority to give effect to his promise/assurance. To that extent, it would not be out of the place to state that a reasonable citizen would believe that the CM has spoken on behalf of his Government, while making the said promise", the Court had held.

Case Title: GNCTD vs Najma & Ors.

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