Arvind Kejriwal, the chief minister, should not have been away from the country for so long. Delhi High Court

The Delhi High Court ruled on Monday that the arrest of Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal could not be used as an excuse to deny students access to school textbooks. However, the court did permit the Commissioner of the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) to bear the costs associated with this initiative [Social Jurist v Government of NCT of Delhi & Ors].

The basic rights of young children cannot be violated only because the Chief Minister is unavailable, according to a Division Bench made up of Acting Chief Manmohan and Justice Manmeet Pritam Singh Arora.

As a result, this Court believes that the Chief Minister’s unavailability, the failure to establish a Standing Committee, disagreements over the Hon. LG’s choice of an alderman, the failure of a competent court to make a ruling, or the disregard for specific


“Consequently, as 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 Delhi government had earlier told the Court that the standing committee of MCD is empowered to take decision as regards the finances of the MCD but the constitution of standing committee is under dispute which is pending before the Supreme Court.

It had further stated that regarding the delegation of such powers regarding finance to the MCD Commissioner, the Chief Minister’s approval would be required and since the Delhi CM is lodged in jail in a money laundering case, the same is yet to be obtained.

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 order was passed in a public interest litigation (PIL) petition filed by an organisation named Social Jurist

The plea stated that the students studying in MCD schools have not received textbooks and were studying in tin sheds because of the logjam in the civic body.

During one of the earlier hearings in the case, the MCD Commissioner had joined the proceedings and informed the Bench that nearly two lakh students do not have any bank account, uniform and, therefore, 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 Standing Committee has the power and jurisdiction to award contracts worth more than ₹5 crores.

The Court had then 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 castigated the AAP government for its failure to provide textbooks to students.

The Bench had remarked that 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 Chief Minister 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.

In its order today, the Court said the decision of the 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.

Advocates Ashok Agarwal, Manoj Kumar and Ashna Khan appeared for petitioner Social Jurist.

Delhi Government was represented through Additional Standing Counsel Shadan Farasat as well as advocates Hrishika Jain.

Standing Counsel Sanjeev Sagar along with Additional Standing Counsel Shivangi Kumar represented MCD.

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