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Promise by Chief Minister in press conference enforceable – Delhi High Court

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New Delhi. In a significant judgement, the Delhi High Court has ruled that an assurance or promise given by a CM in a press conference amounts to an enforceable promise, and the CM is expected to give effect to such a promise.

Hon’ble Justice Pratibha M Singh further observed that the CM is expected to know and is expected to exercise his power to give effect to the promise. It is not out of place for ordinary people to believe that CM spoke on behalf of his government while making the promise.

“A statement given in a consciously held press conference, against 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 Chief Minister, and inaction on the same cannot be the answer,” said Justice Singh, in an 89-page judgment.

These observations were made in a petition filed by workers/labourers who could not pay rent and sought enforcement of the CM’s promise that he made on 29th March 2020.

The court made it clear that the assurance is not a political promise, as is sought to be canvassed before it, and it was also not made as a part of an election rally, and is rather a statement made by the Delhi Chief Minister. It added that there is a reasonable expectation on behalf of the citizens that the Chief Minister knows the background, and the number of people who would be affected by the same as also the financial implications of such a promise/assurance, in the context in which it was made.

The court said it is of the opinion that the promise given by the Chief Minister 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,” it added.

The court said surely there must have been a large number of tenants and landlords, who would have believed the Chief Minister’s assurance, and that the expectation of the citizens could be that government would implement the promise. However, when it is examining this promise and the expectation which comes with it, the question is whether there is any reason as to why the government did not even take a decision in this regard, it said.

“To that extent, insofar as the indecision is concerned, the GNCTD needed to answer the question, which it has failed to answer,” the court observed.

The petitioners had argued that the Chief Minister made promise, as the head of a government, and it was not a political statement but rather a statement made in the context of Covid-19, with an intent to prevent migration of workers.

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