New Delhi: Twenty Delhi MLAs of the ruling Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) were disqualified on Sunday with the President of India approving an Election Commission recommendation against the lawmakers in office-of-profit case.
“…Having considered the matter in the light of the opinion expressed by the Election Commission, I, Ram Nath Kovind, president of India, in exercise of the powers…do here hold that the aforesaid 20 members of the Delhi legislative assembly stand disqualified from being members of the said assembly,” read the notification issued by law ministry quoting the President.
The disqualification will not endanger the Arvind Kejriwal government though its numbers will come down significantly in the 70-seat Delhi Assembly. They would still enjoy a comfortable majority.
Gopal Rai, the president of the Delhi unit of the AAP, claimed “victimisation” and asserted the party was “not afraid of elections”.
Both Sisodia and Rai claimed the 20 MLAs did not receive even a “single” penny as parliamentary secretaries or any other benefit like office space or accommodation while serving on the post.
“They were appointed to help the government as it was working on Mohalla Clinics, skill centres, unauthorised colonies development and trader-friendly VAT scheme. They used to travel on their own expense. They were not paid even a single paisa as salary or facilities like office and bungalow,” Sisodia said.
In 2015, AAP had suspended Cabinet Minister Asim Ahmed Khan and the following year, it sacked another minister Sandeep Kumar who was embroiled in a sex scandal. In the AAP cabinet reshuffle, Kapil Mishra rebelled against the party after he was sacked. AAP MLA from Rajouri Garden quit his post to contest the Punjab Assembly elections but the AAP failed to win the bypoll. After this, the number dropped from 67 MLAs to 63. After the disqualification of 20 MLAs, the AAP’s strength will reduce to 42.
The issue in front of the Election Commission was whether the office of Parliamentary Secretary in the GNCTD, 1991 constitutes an ‘office of profit’. Article 191 of the Constitution has not defined what is an ‘office of profit’, which has paved the way to the Courts to lay down the law.
The entire issue came into existence when on March 13, 2015, the Arvind Kejriwal government passed an order appointing 21 MLAs as Parliamentary Secretaries. This was challenged by Advocate Prashant Patel who petitioned President Pranab Mukherjee on June 19, 2015, that these MLAs were now holding ‘office of profit’ and should be disqualified.
The Delhi Legislative Assembly, then passed the Delhi Member of Legislative Assembly (Removal of Disqualification) ( Amendment Bill ), 2015 excluding Parliamentary Secretaries from “ office of profit’ with retrospective effect.
The AAP has approached the Delhi High Court seeking a stay on EC’s recommendation. The court has listed the case for a hearing on Monday.