EC for disqualification of 20 AAP legislators

EC for disqualification of 20 AAP legislators

The Election Commission on Friday recommended the disqualification of 20 Aam Aadmi Party MLAs, including a minister in the Delhi government, for "violating" the office of profit rules.

Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had appointed these 20 MLAs as parliamentary secretaries.

The President is bound to go with the commission's recommendations on such complaints.

The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) MLAs rushed to the Delhi High Court. But the court refused to grant interim relief, questioning their conduct before the commission, saying that they took shield of the fact that their pleas were pending before the court.

The AAP reacted angrily, claiming that A K Joti was "repaying his debt" to Prime Minister Narendra Modi for his appointment as chief election commissioner.

The recommendation comes as a huge blow to Kejriwal as one of his ministers, Kailash Gahlot, and close aides like Adarsh Shastri, Lal Bahadur Shastri's grandson, and Alka Lamba are staring at disqualification.

Sources said the commission has sent its opinion to President Ram Nath Kovind four days before Joti is to retire.

Officially, the commission said it would not comment on what recommendation as the matter is sub judice.

The AAP said the commission has "never touched this low", while the BJP and the Congress latched on to it seeking the government's ouster. The AAP had been arguing that this post did not qualify as an office of profit as there is no monetary benefit attached to it.

The disqualification will not have an impact on the government's continuation as the AAP would still have at least 45 members in the 70-member Assembly.

The initial complaint was against 21 MLAs but one legislator - former journalist Jarnail Singh - resigned and the commission later dropped the petition against him.

It all began on March 13, 2015, with Kejriwal appointing the MLAs as parliamentary secretaries.

After the appointment, the AAP government sought an amendment to the Delhi Members of Legislative Assembly (Removal of Disqualification) Act, 1997, to provide "retrospective" exemption for parliamentary secretaries "without prior sanction" from the central government.

As per the Government of National Capital Territory Act, the Delhi government can have only one parliamentary secretary attached to the office of the chief minister and the amendment was aimed at providing legal cover to these appointments. The then President Pranab Mukherjee refused to give his assent to the bill while the Delhi High Court also set aside the order appointing the MLAs as parliamentary secretaries.

Then a lawyer, Prashant Patel, approached the commission seeking the disqualification of these MLAs.

Later, the Congress also approached the commission with a similar complaint.

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