The Supreme Court today refused to grant any relief to daily wage labourers/workers against the order of the Delhi High Court, which had stayed the decision of a single judge, which, in turn, had held that the promise made by Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal during a press conference is enforceable and the same should be implemented by the ruling party.
A two-judge bench of Justices D.Y. Chandrachud and Surya Kant has dismissed the plea by Najma and Others stating no case for interference under Article 136 of the Constitution has been made out and the special leave petition was dismissed on that ground.
Before the Apex Court, the petitioners moved against the order of Division Bench led by Chief Justice D.N. Patel, which had stayed the order passed by single judge Justice Prathiba M. Singh.
Justice Singh had said,
“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.”Advertisement
The petitioner had contended before the single judge contended that the Chief Minister had promised in a press conference that the government shall pay the rent and other payments of those unable to pay during the Covid period.
Four days after the nationwide lockdown was imposed in 2020, the Delhi CM gave a press conference in which he requested all landlords to postpone the demand/collection of rent from tenants who are poverty stricken. It is alleged that the CM in furtherance of this request, made a clear promise that if any such tenant is unable to pay rent, the Government would pay the same on his/her behalf.
The Government challenged the single judge order before the Division Bench of the Delhi High Court and had submitted,
“the judgment was premised on a conclusion that a clear and unequivocal assurance and promise was made by the Hon’ble Chief Minister that GNCTD shall pay the rent of tenants who are unable to do so owing to poverty, when the pandemic Covid-19 comes to an end, overlooking the fact that no such assurance was given. Reading of the transcript of the address, reveals that Chief Minister had beseeched people to stay at home in view of the nationwide lockdown, alluding to the attempts of the migrant workers to leave the city and crowd at the ISBT and in that context requested landlords not to evict tenants and also requested the landlords to be empathetic.”
Further, it was alleged, “Learned single judge failed to appreciate that need for framing of a policy does not arise in view of the fact that complete prohibition imposed on the movement of people and closure of all means of public transport vide order dated 25.03.2020 has been progressively relaxed. That the judgment overlooks the settled law laid down by the Supreme Court in State of Punjab vs. Nestle India Limited, (2004) 6 SCC 465 that the principle of promissory estoppel can only enforce unequivocal, definite and established representations. Learned single judge failed to appreciate that the Supreme Court while discussing the aforesaid principle in Nestle India (supra) relied on the judgment in Kasinka Trading vs. Union of India, (1995) 1 SCC 274 to explain that LPA 349/2021 exemption granted under Notifications cannot be claimed in perpetuity and can be revoked without violating the principle of promissory estoppel. Reliance is also placed on the judgment of Judicial Committee of the Privy Council in The United Policyholders Group and Others vs. The Attorney General of Trinidad and Tobago, (2016) UKPC 17, wherein it was held that pre-requisite for bringing a claim of legitimate expectation is the existence of “clear, unambiguous and devoid of qualification” promise.”
The High Court had held,
“Looking to the transcript of the Press Conference held by Chief Minister, which is referred to in Hindi language, in paragraph 3 of the impugned judgment, we are of the prima facie view that the statements made do not constitute a promise extended by the Chief Minister so as to fall foul of the principle of promissory estoppel. Thus, there is a prima facie case in favour of the Appellant and balance of convenience also lies in favour of the Appellant. Irreparable loss shall be caused to the Appellant if the interim order, sought for, is not granted. We, therefore, stay the operation, implementation and execution of the judgment dated 22.07.2021, passed by the Learned Single Judge in W.P. (C) No.8956/2020, till the next date of hearing.”
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