Delhi High Court: In a Public Interest Litigation (PIL) filed by Anand (petitioner), a practicing advocate challenging the constitutional validity of sub-clause (1) to Clause 3 of the Order passed by the Divisional Commissioner to the extent it makes “resident of Delhi” as a necessary condition to become eligible for being a civil defence corps and that it is mandatory that a candidate for enrolment of Civil Defence volunteer has to be a resident of Delhi. A division bench of Subramonium Prasad, CJ., and Tushar Rao Gedela J., did not interfere with the Order issued by the Divisional Commissioner as by no stretch of imagination, it can be held that the condition regarding the place of residence is violative of Articles 14, 16 and 21 of the Constitution.
The Court noted that the Civil Defence Act, 1968 was enacted, as already stated earlier, to cater to the needs of the Government in case of emergency of various kinds. The main aim and object of the Civil Defence Act, 1968 is to cater to the immediate need in case any unseen event takes place by providing immediate relief in the locality and, in those circumstances the necessity also arose for constituting a civil defence service. Volunteers in case of emergency play a great role and the Civil Defence Act, 1968 read with the Regulations provides for the enrolment of civil defence volunteers.
The Civil Defence Act, 1968 was enacted after the Chinese invasion of our country in 1962. It was felt that to minimize loss of life, to maintain continuity of prohibition and to restore quickly the disrupted civil services, civil defence measures should be adopted in places that were the most likely targets of enemy attack. The Act provides for the maintenance of Civil Defence Services in the States and Union Territories. The Central Government in the exercise of powers conferred by Section 3 of the Civil Defence Act, 1968 has framed Rules which deal with various contingencies in case of an emergency and otherwise also and in the exercise of powers conferred under Rule 9, the Central Government has framed Civil Defence Regulations, 1968 which deal with the appointment of civil defence volunteers.
The Court further noted that the notification dated 18-03-2015 which is impugned in the present writ petition was issued for enrollment of civil defence volunteers in Delhi by the competent authority i.e. the Divisional Commissioner. The Civil Defence Act, 1968 and the Rules framed thereunder make it very clear that the Civil Defence volunteers/ corps are expected to be the first responders in case of disaster situation or hostile enemy attack. Thus, the civil defence volunteers are the first responders in case of disaster situations, a volunteer residing in the same locality or in a neighboring locality will certainly be able to respond immediately as and when directed by the Divisional Commissioner.
The Court remarked that such an individual is well aware of the geography of the area, the local need of the area, the logistic support available in the area and, therefore, the Divisional Commissioner, while issuing the impugned order dated 18.03.2015 under the eligibility criteria has inserted a condition that a person for enrolling himself as civil defence volunteer should be a citizen of India or a subject of Bhutan or of Nepal and should be a resident of Delhi, having any one of the following documents: i. Voter identity Card ii. Aadhar Card iii. Passport/Driving License iv. Bank Passbook v. Any other employment Identity Card issued by Govt. Authority, with a photograph.
Regulation 16 of the Civil Defence Regulations, 1968 specifically empowers the competent authority to take appropriate steps as deemed fit and reasonably necessary for preventing the contravention of or securing the observance of the Regulations as prescribed or any order issued thereunder. Therefore, the competent authority was justified in issuing the impugned order stating that while enrolling a person as a civil defence volunteer, the authorities are certainly competent to issue necessary directions in respect of the place of residence of a candidate.
The Court concluded that if a person from some other State is residing in Delhi holding any of the documents required can certainly become a civil defence volunteer in Delhi. The order dated 18-03-2015 does not provide for producing a domicile certificate for treating a person to be a resident of Delhi. Thus, by no stretch of imagination, it can be held that the condition in regard to place of residence is violative of Articles 14, 16 and 21 of the Constitution.
[Anand v Govt of NCT of Delhi, 2023 SCC OnLine Del 2998, decided on 22-05-2023]
Advocates who appeared in this case :
Mr. Sameer Vashisht, ASC with Ms. Avni Singh, Advocates for the Respondents.