CM’s post in buzzing capital like Delhi not ceremonial, office holder has to be available 24×7: Delhi HC

New Delhi, April 29: Following a sharp rebuke to incarcerated Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and his government, along with the AAP-led MCD last week, the Delhi High Court on Monday said that Delhi Government has come to a standstill after the AAP supremo’s arrest.

The remark came as Urban Development Minister Saurabh Bharadwaj submitted that any increase in the financial power of the MCD Commissioner shall require approval of CM Kejriwal.

The court further said that a CM’s post in a buzzing capital like Delhi is not ceremonial and it is a post where the office holder has to be available 24X7.

The observation is being viewed as another major setback for the AAP which has said that CM Kejriwal would maintain his role in government affairs while incarcerated.

“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 of time,” the Bench said.

The court was hearing a PIL alleging a dire state of education in MCD-run schools. The court earlier said that nearly two lakh students lacked basic amenities due to administrative hurdles.

On Monday, the Bench ordered the MCD Commissioner to incur the expense of providing textbooks and other material to students without being constrained by the ₹5 crore expenditure limit.

It said, “Consequently, this court is of the view that non-availability of the 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 textbooks, writing material and uniform forthwith.”

During the proceedings, the court said that CM Kejriwal’s decision to continue as CM despite his arrest is his personal decision but that does not mean that because the CM is not available, “fundamental rights of young children will be trampled upon and they will go through the first term of school without textbooks, writing material and uniforms.”

The court said that receipt of free textbooks, writing material and uniforms by schoolchildren is not only a legal right under the Right to Education Act and its rules, but is a part of the Fundamental Rights under Article 21A of the Constitution.

It noted that the real issue in the matter is of “power”, “control”, “turf dominance” and “who takes the credit”.

Last time, the court had pointed out CM Kejriwal’s failure to resign despite facing arrest on alleged money laundering charges, accusing him of placing personal interests above national interests.

The court had last week also criticised the AAP government’s failure to provide textbooks to over 2 lakh students studying in the MCD schools in the national Capital.

A Bench of Acting Chief Justice Manmohan and Justice Manmeet Pritam Singh Arora criticised the Delhi Government for prioritising “power over public welfare.”

Later, even the office of the Lieutenant Governor had accused the Delhi Government and Minister Bharadwaj of delaying the approval of a proposal to temporarily enhance the financial powers of the MCD Commissioner from Rs 5 crore to Rs 50 crore.

CM Kejriwal was arrested by the Enforcement Directorate on March 21 in connection with a money laundering case related to the alleged excise policy scam. He is currently in judicial custody.

The Bench had said that children are not commodities for trading as it criticised the government’s admission of failure in multiple aspects under the MCD’s jurisdiction.

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