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Kejriwal Singapore Visit Row: Delhi Transport Minister In High Court Challenges Provision Requiring Centre's Permission For Foreign Visits By State Ministers

Padmakshi Sharma
1 Aug 2022 8:34 AM GMT
Kejriwal Singapore Visit Row: Delhi Transport Minister In High Court Challenges Provision Requiring Centres Permission For Foreign Visits By State Ministers
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Following LG's refusal to grant clearance for Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal's Singapore visit to attend the World Cities Summit, city's Transport Minister Kailash Gahlot has approached the High Court seeking "broader guidelines" for permissions required by elected constitutional functionaries to travel abroad. Gahlot has submitted that the requirement of political clearances from...

Following LG's refusal to grant clearance for Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal's Singapore visit to attend the World Cities Summit, city's Transport Minister Kailash Gahlot has approached the High Court seeking "broader guidelines" for permissions required by elected constitutional functionaries to travel abroad.

Gahlot has submitted that the requirement of political clearances from the Ministry of External Affairs for personal foreign visits of state government ministers violates the latter's right to privacy and the dignity of the constitutional office.

Further, it is submitted that the advice of LG against the proposed Singapore visit was beyond the jurisdiction of his office's authority and is liable to be set aside.

The petition also submits that the use of delay on part of the respondents to effectively deny clearances for official foreign visits was itself an "arbitrary non-exercise of power" and the same must be remedied by appropriate guidelines.

Kejriwal could not attend the event as he failed to get a clearance for the visit from Delhi Lieutenant Governor, VK Saxena.

As per the petition, the Singapore Summit was organised in light of emerging challenges of climate change in public health and urban design, and aimed to bring together government leaders and industry experts to forge new partnerships for creating and implementing sustainable and liveable model for urban design and infrastructure. The petition stated that this invitation, therefore, was an opportunity for the national capital to "showcase the leaps it had made in urban planning and development in a manner that is sustainable and conducive to high quality of life standards."

As per the petition, the Chief Minister's visit, thus, would have been significant for the interests of Delhi citizens as well as the nation, generally. As per the petition, the LG advised the rejection of such clearances on the grounds that the world city summit was a conference for city mayors and therefore, unsuitable for the Chief Minister's office, and that, in any case, the Government of Delhi did not have exclusive domain over urban governance in Delhi. 

As per the petition, the respondents had used the discretion on travel clearances to grant or deny travel clearances to various ministers of the government of Delhi in an arbitrary manner. This was not the first instance of such abuse of discretion, as per the petition.

"The Chief Minister was previously denied permission to attend the C-40 World Mayors' Summit in Copenhagen in 2019. The petitioner, who holds the portfolio of transport in the council of ministers had also requested clearance to visit London on the invitation of 'Transport for London' but there was not even a response from the concerned authorities in the Central Government till the time the request became infructuous...the petitioner is directly impacted by the draconian and invasive regime requiring clearances for even personal visits abroad made by state ministers. Being an important stakeholder in the Delhi model of urban governance and managing a significant part of urban design, the petitioner is deeply interested in ensuring that the Delhi government feature in national and international fora," the plea states.

The matter was listed today before Justice Yashwant Varma.

Dr. Abhishek Manu Singhvi appearing for Gahlot, urged the court to look into the nature and kind of denial exercised by the Delhi LG.

The Court noted that Petitioner sought to eliminate interference from State Ministers' "personal visits abroad". However, the facts of the instant case could not be understood as "personal visits". Justice Varma asked whether this made the relief in the petition infructuous. He orally remarked that the petitioner was asking the court to make a decision in a "vacuum".

Dr. Singhvi submitted that while a personal visit did not exist in the present case, broader guidelines needed to be applied in this case as well. He stated that no interim relief was being sought at the moment. He further submitted that instances like the present one had happened in the past as well and there was a need for broader guidelines to be made while exercising pocket veto. 

The court then granted the petitioner liberty to file an additional affidavit to buttress the relief sought by the petition. The matter is now listed again for 22nd August, 2022.

CASE TITLE: KAILASH GAHLOT v. LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR & ORS.

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