CM can't break promise made in press conference: HC

CM can't break promise made in press conference: Delhi HC

It held that the assurance or promise given by the CM is enforceable by law

Representative image. Credit: iStock photo

In an important judgement, the Delhi High Court held that a promise made by Chief Minister in a press conference is enforceable in law and cannot be broken without valid or justifiable reason.

A bench of Justice Pratibha M Singh directed the Delhi government to take a decision within six weeks on an assurance given by Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on March 29, 2020 to pay the rent of migrant workers in view of Covid-19 pandemic.

"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 court said.

It held that the assurance or promise given by the CM is enforceable, both on the basis of the doctrines of promissory estoppel and legitimate expectation.

The court said surely there must have been a large number of tenants and landlords, who would have believed the assurance made by the CM.

The court passed its 89-page judgement on a writ petition filed by a group of tenants and landlords led by Nazma, who sought recovery, payment or refund of the monthly rental amount, as per the promise made by the CM.

 

Kejriwal had then said if any tenant is unable to pay the rent due to poverty, the government would pay his or her rent on their behalf.

Delhi government, led by senior advocate Rahul Mehra, opposed the plea, saying the doctrine of legitimate expectation can only be based on actual governmental policy or a notification or an executive decision, and not on a mere political statement.

The petitioners said the promise was made by the CM as the head of a government. It was not a political statement but rather a statement made in the context of Covid-19, to prevent migration of workers.

"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.

The court pointed out the assurance was not a political promise, or made as a part of an election rally but was a statement by the CM who knew the background, and also the financial implications of such a promise.

"The said promise was to act as a balm on the wounds of landlords and tenants, who were severely affected as a class of citizens in Delhi," it said.

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