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Columbia India Energy Dialogue: Delhi High Court closes Gopal Rai plea after Centre gives political clearance

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The High Court of Delhi on Friday closed the petition filed by Delhi Environment and Forest Minister Gopal Rai after the Central government apprised the High Court that political clearance has been given to the Aam Aadmi Party leader to attend the Columbia India Energy Dialogue in New York on September 18.

Representing the Union of India, Solicitor General Tushar Mehta apprised the single-judge bench of Justice Subramonium Prasad that the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) has granted
permission to Rai to travel between September 15 and September 21 to the United States, for the purpose of attending the conference.

However, the SG pointed out that political clearance was given to Rai’ in ‘peculiar facts’ of this particular case, without making it a precedent.

The counsel for the Central government further made a personal suggestion, saying that whenever Indians went out of the country, they represented the nation. They may have different political views or ideologies, but they should not criticise the country outside.

Justice Prasad sided with the SG and said that a united front should be presented when one represented the country abroad. He further noted that the citizens might be divided inside the country, but outside the country, they should stay united.

The High Court judge recalled the leaders of opposition parties representing the country in unison at foreign conferences.

The SG further expressed his concern over allowing petitioners to move the Court in such matters under Article 226 of the Constitution since these were policy matters, which were taken after considering the international relations.

The petition filed by Rai contended that the Union Ministry passed an order on September 12, rejecting his request to travel for the conference by assigning “arbitrary and mala fide” reasons.

As per Rai, the MEA order said that since NITI Aayog’s Vice Chairman was going to represent India at the event, a visit from the Government of Delhi was not necessary since India was already being represented.

Calling the government order a ‘colourable’ exercise of power, the PIL pointed out that officers from other States were permitted to take part in the event. It alleged that MEA’s decision was perverse in nature and had been passed in a sheer violation of principles of natural justice.

Noting that he was an elected representative, Rai said in the plea that he was well-qualified to offer the perspective of Delhi as a major urban city in the deliberations to be carried out at the event.

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