New Delhi, Sep 15 (Fresh Headline) In response to Delhi Environment Minister Gopal Rai’s petition, the Centre on Friday informed the high court that political clearance has been granted to him to attend the Columbia India Energy Dialogue in New York on September 18.
Rai had moved the Delhi High Court seeking quashing of Centre’s order denying his official request.
Solicitor General of India, Tushar Mehta, informed Justice Subramonium Prasad on Friday that political clearance had been granted for Rai’s travel. However, he said the court should not view this decision as setting a precedent.
He clarified that the courts cannot intervene in policy decisions when exercising jurisdiction under Article 226 of the Constitution.
Assistant Solicitor General, Chetan Sharma, appearing for the Centre defended the contested order.
He argued that since the Vice Chairman of Niti Aayog was already representing India in the Dialogue, Rai’s presence as a Cabinet minister was unnecessary.
He said Rai’s travel would be state-funded, and it would not have a private source.
However, Mehta, informed the court that political clearance had been granted in this particular case but cautioned against considering it as a precedent for others.
It was Rai’s contention that the Ministry of External Affairs’ order dated September 12 has been passed by assigning arbitrary and malafide reasons that “since government official Suman Kumar Bery, Vice Chairman, NITI Ayog, (minster rank) is going to represent India at the Dialogue, the visit from Government of NCT Delhi is not necessary as India is already being represented”.
Rai had sought the court’s interim direction to the Centre to allow him to travel from September 15 to 21 to attend the above-mentioned Dialogue.
The petitioner had said that it is a Dialogue by all the stakeholders, along with “Indian think-tanks” to address the essential issues of energy consumption expected to grow about 1.5x in the coming decades, and therefore, citing the reason that India is represented by a bureaucrat (ministerial level) is “neither intended nor desired by the Global Energy Policy, an organisation holding the aforesaid Dialogue”.
The plea, which now stands didposed of, said that the Centre has permitted other officers from different States to attend the programme, and the reasons given in the order denying permission are completely contradicted by these actions.
Rai’s petition — filed through Delhi government standing counsel Santosh Kumar Tripathi and advocate Arun Panwar — stated that he has also been scheduled to hold special remarks at the said Dialogue, and that Arvind Kumar, Special Chief Secretary, Municipal Administration and Urban Development, Telangana government, is also part of the programme, who has been selected as a speaker to speak on the issue of balancing energy, security and energy transition priorities in India.
“This is demonstrated by the fact that the impugned order cites reasons that are contradicted by other actions taken by the Respondents. This clearly demonstrates that the impugned order is a colourable exercise of power,” the petition read.
It was Rai’s case that the invitation is specific for the different persons representing different stakeholders and does not intend to “confine delegates at national level only for the formal representation of the country”, and the reason cited by the Centre is nothing but a “colourable exercise of power and accordingly bad in law”.
The petition said that the denial letter has been passed in a haste manner and without any application of mind, violating principles of natural justice.