CM’s absence doesn’t mean children won’t get books: Delhi High Court

Anyone who holds CM’s post can’t be absent indefinitely, says High Court; Kejriwal is a victim of political conspiracy, will continue being CM: AAP

Published - April 30, 2024 01:17 am IST - NEW DELHI:

The fundamental right of students to get free books can’t be trampled upon, the court said.

The fundamental right of students to get free books can’t be trampled upon, the court said. | Photo Credit: File Photo

The Delhi High Court on Monday said continuing as Delhi Chief Minister even after his arrest was Arvind Kejriwal’s personal choice, but his unavailability could not come in the way of poor school-going children getting free textbooks, writing material, and uniforms.

“The decision of the Chief Minister to continue to hold the position is his personal decision. However, it does not mean that if the Chief Minister is not available, the fundamental rights of young children would be trampled upon, and they would go through the first term (April 1 to May 10) without free textbooks, writing material and uniforms,” a Bench of Acting Chief Justice Manmohan and Justice Manmeet P.S. Arora said.

Reacting to the court’s observations, the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) said Mr. Kejriwal was a victim of political conspiracy and that he will continue to serve as the Delhi CM as the decision to continue in the post even after being jailed was made by the people of Delhi.

The court’s observation came while dealing with a public interest litigation (PIL) plea by NGO Social Jurist, represented by advocate Ashok Agarwal, highlighting the non-supply of educational material and other statutory benefits to 8 lakh students in the Municipal Corporation of Delhi-run schools even after the commencement of the new academic session.

In response to the petition, the Delhi government counsel had last week told the court that the supply of textbooks requires certain approvals by Mr. Kejriwal, who is in judicial custody in a money laundering case related to the now-scrapped Delhi excise policy. In response, the court had observed that Mr. Kejriwal had, by continuing to remain the Chief Minister even after his arrest, placed his political interest over national interest.

In an earlier hearing, the MCD Commissioner had earlier stated that books had not been distributed due to the non-formation of the Standing Committee, which has the power to award contracts worth over ₹5 crore. The court had subsequently directed the officer to incur the expenditure required for fulfilling the obligations forthwith without being constrained by the expenditure limit.

‘Can’t be absent’

“National interest and public interest demand 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 remarked.

In response, senior AAP leader and Rajya Sabha member Sanjay Singh said, “With utmost respect for the High Court, I want to say that Arvind Kejriwal is a true patriot. Nobody can raise questions about his patriotism. He is not greedy for any post.”

Referring to Mr. Kejriwal’s decision to step down as the CM in 2014 within one-and-a-half months of forming the government in Delhi, the AAP leader said, “When the question of values was raised, he resigned from Chief Minister’s post within 49 days.”

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