Prez okays disqualification of 20 AAP MLAs

In a huge blow to Arvind Kejriwal-led AAP, President Ram Nath Kovind on Sunday approved the disqualification 20 Delhi MLAs, including minister Kailash Gahlot, for holding offices of profit, setting the stage for a 'mini-election' in the capital.

The AAP said the President took the decision in haste and that the doors of the higher judiciary are open for them. Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal headed to Najafgarh with Gahlot to attend a public function soon after the notification was out.
The disqualification of these MLAs will not have immediate impact on the survival of the AAP government as it still has 45 MLAs, excluding rebel MLA Kapil Mishra, but is expected to create some rumblings in the party, as it is keenly watched what will a handful of MLAs who are unhappy with Kejriwal do.
The President acted on the recommendation of the Election Commission following a complaint against 21 MLAs, one of them later resigned, that they were holding office of profit as they were appointed Parliamentary Secretaries.
The Gazette notification, running into 120 pages in Hindi and English, said the AAP government "attempted to bypass Constitutional provisions of paramount importance" by appointing these MLAs as Parliamentary Secretaries that was never created by any law or order of the government.
In a stinging criticism, it said, the roles and responsibilities of the office holders was "never spelt out in any manner" and the totality of these circumstances clearly brings out the larger scheme of things in the appointments "against rules and regulations and even the Constitutional provisions in order to satiate the demand for executive office and to oblige them with office".

"In such circumstances there is no doubt over the fact that such a large scale appointment of Parliamentary Secretaries had not only jeopardised the functioning of these individual MLAs but also the entire Legislative Assembly of Delhi and it is essential to keep this fact and situation in mind while deciding upon the present reference," it said.

While the AAP claimed that the decision was arrived at without hearing their MLAs, the Election Commission rejected the contentions raised by the AAP that they did not take any pecuniary benefit= s or the law passed by the Assembly.

The EC said whether or not the individual Parliamentary Secretaries had actually derived the benefits or participated in executive functions of the government is of no relevance as once it is established that the office of Parliamentary Secretary suffered from the infirmities which would necessitate disqualification for holding office of profit.

In the Bill passed by Delhi government to protect these MLAs from disqualification in 2015, the EC said it was rejected by the President. "It is also evident from a bare perusal of the Statement of Objects and Reasons of the said Bill that the Delhi government recognised that the Office of Parliamentary Secretaries to Ministers attracts disqualification on account of holding Office of Profit and sought to remove the disqualification retrospectively," it noted.

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