‘Will you pay even 5%?’ Delhi HC asks Kejriwal govt over promise to pay rent of poor amid lockdown

The division bench headed by Chief Justice DN Patel also criticised the government for making the statement without having any such intention. “You have no intention to make payment but you made the statement. Should we record this?” asked the court.

In March 2020, Kejriwal had appealed to the landlords to postpone the collection of rents from people who have lost their employment due to the COVID-19 lockdown. He had also reportedly said that the government would pay on behalf of the tenants who are unable to pay the rents.

The Delhi High Court on September 27 asked the Arvind Kejriwal government whether it intended to pay even 5 percent of the rent amount it promised to the “poor and poverty-stricken” people last year, a report said.

While questioning the Delhi government for making a statement without intending to fulfill it, the Delhi High on Monday stayed its earlier order directing the State to frame a policy towards implementation of Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s statement of March 2020, in which he had said that the authorities would pay the rent if any tenant was unable to do so.

“If you can say, say boldly that I had no intention but I had spoken the statement,” a division bench of Chief Justice D N Patel and Justice Jyoti Singh told the government during the hearing of an appeal filed by the government against a verdict passed by Justice Prathiba M Singh in July.

“There must be several persons like this who might not have paid the rent. Aap bolte ho ki sarkar iska bukhtan karegi (You say the government will pay). Have you any intention to make (payment of) even 5 percent amount… Are you ready to pay even 1 per cent?” 

In July, a single-judge bench of the HC had observed that an assurance made by the chief minister is an “enforceable promise”, and asked the Delhi government to plan a policy for paying the rents in six weeks.

The Kejriwal government, in its appeal against the court order, argued that “there was no promise” and the chief minister had only appealed to the landlords not to coerce the tenants for rent payments, The Indian Express report said.

The court was further told by the government counsel, Senior Advocate Manish Vashisht, that there was no aggrieved person before it to claim the rent, the report added. Responding to this, the bench reportedly said: “You draft the policy. A thousand people will come to you”.

Notably, the hearing in the case was initiated after five daily wagers and a landlord moved before the High Court earlier this year, seeking enforcement of the “promise” made by Kejriwal.

The bench has decided to adjourn the matter till November 29. Till then, the single-judge order which asked the Delhi government to draft a policy within six weeks will remain stayed.

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