The Delhi High Court on Thursday ruled that an assurance given by a chief minister “clearly amounts to an enforceable promise”, the implementation of which ought to be considered by the state, and directed the Delhi government to decide on the statement CM Arvind Kejriwal made last year that the state would be paying the rent if any tenant is unable to pay the same.
Justice Prathiba M Singh in an order said that good governance requires that promises made to citizens by those who govern are not broken without valid and justifiable reasons.
“The saying ‘promises are meant to be broken’ is well known in the social context. However, law has evolved the doctrines of legitimate expectation and promissory estoppel to ensure that promises made by the Government, its officials and other authorities are not broken and are, in fact, judicially enforceable, subject to certain conditions,” said the court.
According to the petition filed by five daily-wage workers and a landlord, Kejriwal on March 29 in a press conference requested all landlords to postpone the collection of rent from those tenants “who are poor and poverty-stricken” and also promised that if any tenant is unable to pay the rent due to poverty, the government would pay on their behalf.
Directing the Delhi government to decide within six weeks, the court further asked the state to bear in mind the larger interest of the persons to whom the benefits were intended to be extended in the statement given by the CM. “Upon the said decision being taken, the GNCTD would frame a clear policy in this regard,” it said.
The court said that once the CM had made a solemn assurance, there was a duty cast on the Delhi government to take a stand as to whether to enforce the said promise or not and if so on what grounds.
“It cannot be held that there was no expectation or anticipation by the citizens that the CM’s promise would be given effect to. The doctrine of promissory estoppel also being an equitable doctrine, equity requires this Court to hold the GNCTD responsible for the said indecision or lack of action, on the promise/assurance given by the CM,” reads the judgement.