Updated April 29th, 2024 at 18:30 IST

Against National Interest, if a CM Remains Absent For So Long: Delhi HC on Arvind Kejriwal

Delhi HC in a PIL filed on non-distribution of text-books to students in MCD schools observed that it is against national interest, if a CM remains absent.

Reported by: Digital Desk
Against National Interest, if a CM Remains Absent for So Long: Delhi HC on Arvind Kejriwal | Image:PTI

New Delhi: On a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by Social Jurist on the non-distribution of text-books to students in Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) schools, the Delhi High Court observed that it is “against national interest if a Chief Minister remains absent for so long”. But the Delhi HC also said that the arrest of the Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal cannot be ground for non-distribution of school textbooks to students and allowed the Municipal Corporation Commissioner to incur the expenses required for the same. 

A Division Bench of Acting Chief Manmohan and Justice Manmeet Pritam Singh Arora said that fundamental rights of young children cannot be walked upon merely because the CM is not available.


The court directed, “The students of MCD schools are entitled for free text books, writing material and uniform in accordance with their Constitutional and statutory rights, and the schools are going to close for summer vacations shortly, this Court directs the Commissioner, MCD to incur the expenditure required for fulfilling the said obligations forthwith without being constrained by the expenditure limit of Rs. Five crores. However, the expenditure incurred by the Commissioner, MCD shall be subject to statutory audit.”

The court was of the view that: “On-availability of Chief Minister or non-formation of a Standing Committee or disputes pertaining to appointment of an aldermen by the Hon’ble LG or non-delivery of judgment by a competent Court or non-compliance of certain provisions of Delhi Municipal Corporation Act cannot come in the way of the school-going children receiving their free text books, writing material and uniform forthwith.”


The Delhi government earlier told the Court that the standing committee of MCD has power to take decision in relation to the finances of the MCD. But the standing committee constitution is under dispute and pending before the apex court. 

The Delhi government further stated that the approval of the CM Arvind Kejriwal would be required regarding the delegation of such powers relating to the finance to the MCD Commissioner. Since the Delhi CM is incarcerated in a money laundering case, the same is yet to be obtained, said the Delhi government.


The Court, however, took strong objection to the argument, stating that “it is against national interest, if a Chief Minister remains absent for so long”.

"It amounts to an admission that the Delhi Government, due to absence of the Chief Minister is at a standstill. A Chief Minister’s post in any State, leave alone a buzzing capital city like Delhi is not a ceremonial post. It is a post where the office holder (when in office) has to be virtually available 24 x 7 to deal with any crisis or natural disaster like flooding, fire, disease etc. National interest and public interest demands that no person who holds this post is incommunicado or absent for a long stretch of time or for an uncertain period time," the Court said.


The Court observed that there cannot be a vacuum and if the Standing Committee is not available for any reason, the financial power needs to be delegated to an appropriate authority by the Delhi government.

The High Court had criticised the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government in Delhi for its failure to provide textbooks to students. The Bench remarked, “Delhi government is only interested in appropriation of power and is putting personal interests over national interest”. The Court had remarked that it arrest of Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal cannot be an excuse to create vacuum in the governance and that it is "the personal call of the Chief Minister that he wants the government to be paralysed".


It had also commented on the conduct of Urban Development Minister Saurabh Bhardwaj and said that “he has turned a blind eye to the plight of students and is shedding crocodile tears”.

The Court said the decision of the Delhi Chief Minister to continue holding the post despite having been arrested, is his personal decision. However, this cannot lead to violation of fundamental rights of children, the Court made it clear, while ordering the MCD Commissioner to spend money to make the necessary purchase of textbooks.


What did the PIL contain?

The PIL plea was filed by an organisation named Social Jurist. The plea stated that the students studying in MCD schools have not got textbooks and were studying in tin sheds because of the impasse in the civic body. MCD Commissioner had joined the proceedings during an earlier hearing in the case, and informed the Bench that nearly two lakh students do not have any bank account and uniforms. For lack of bank accounts, stationery reimbursement has not been made to these students.


He had stated that one of the major reasons for non-distribution of notebooks, stationery items, uniforms and school bags is ‘non-formation of Standing Committees’ and that only the Standing Committee has the power and jurisdiction to award contracts worth more than Rs 5 crore. 


Published April 29th, 2024 at 17:49 IST