Latest update: The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) has withdrawn plea seeking interim relief for its 20 disqualified MLAs, saying that the plea was filed before the President's decision came. The party's lawyer told the court that their plea has become infructuous as President has accepted EC recommendation
and notification disqualifying them has been issued. The party will file a fresh petition in the Delhi High Court seeking quashing of the order disqualifying its MLAs, on the grounds that the poll panel did not grant them a fair hearing. The party will also argue that the MLAs did not obtain any profit as alleged parliamentary secretaries. Meanwhile, the main petition on the Office of Profit case will be heard on 20 March.
Six AAP MLAs had approached the Delhi High Court on Friday, after the Election Commission recommended disqualification of 20 of the party's MLAs for holding office of profit as Parliamentary Secretaries. The court had, however, refused to grant interim relief to the AAP MLAs, listing the matter for further hearing on Monday.
Meanwhile, President Ram Nath Kovind had earlier on Sunday approved the Election Commission's recommendation to disqualify the legislators.
Following the approval, the Union Law and Justice Ministry issued a notification saying that the President has held that the 20 members of Delhi Legislative Assembly stand disqualified under 15 (1) (a) of the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (GNCTD) act.
File image of Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal. PTI
These 20 MLAs are Alka Lamba, Adarsh Shastri, Sanjeev Jha, Rajesh Gupta, Kailash Gehlot, Vijendra Garg, Praveen Kumar, Sharad Kumar, Madan Lal Khufiya, Shiv Charan Goyal, Sarita Singh, Naresh Yadav, Rajesh Rishi, Anil Kumar, Som Dutt, Avtar Singh, Sukhvir Singh Dala, Manoj Kumar, Nitin Tyagi and Jarnail Singh.
It gave its opinion to the President on a complaint by advocate Prashant Patel, a member of the Hindu Legal Cell, in June 2015, who petitioned then President Pranab Mukherjee alleging illegality in the appointment of Parliamentary Secretaries.
The application by Patel said 21 AAP MLAs, including Jarnail Singh (Rajouri Garden) who resigned to contest the Punjab Assembly polls last year, were appointed Parliamentary Secretaries to Ministers in the Delhi government in violation of the Constitution.
Now if AAP fails to get reprieve from the courts, Delhi will have by-polls for the 20 seats. The only technical aspect was that now the Delhi Assembly Speaker will have to notify the 20 vacancies for the Election Commission to announce the by-polls.
Once the vacancies are announced by the Assembly, the AAP's strength would go down to 46 from 66 in the 70-member House. However, it will continue to have a majority to run the state.
While, the BJP welcomed the president's decision and demanded Kejriwal's resignation on moral grounds, the Congress alleged that there was a deal between the BJP and the AAP due to which the EC delayed the disqualification recommendation by a month.
Delhi Chief Minister and AAP national convener Arvind Kejriwal tweeted, "There was some logic when God gave us 67 seats. The Almighty stood behind us in our every step. Otherwise we would have been nothing... Just don't stray away from the path of truth."
He told a gathering in Najafgarh, "They are trying to harass us by all means... They got CBI raid done at my office, but after 24-hour search they only found my four mufflers. Our MLAs were arrested."
"The L-G had called 400 files of our government (pertaining to decisions taken in two years), but when they did not find anything against us... they today disqualified our 20 MLAs."
Interestingly, BJP leaders Yashwant Sinha and Shatrughan Sinha backed the AAP with the former saying the decison depicts "tughluqshahi" of the worst order.
"President's order disqualifying the 20 AAP MLAs is complete miscarriage of natural justice. No hearing, no waiting for High Court's order. It is Tughluqshahi of the worst order," Yashwant Sinha tweeted.
Shatrughan Sinha said the "politics of vendetta" against the AAP would not last long. AAP leader Ashutosh said the president's order is "unconstitutional" and "dangerous for democracy."
Saurab Bharadwaj, chief spokesperson of the party's Delhi unit alleged the chief election commissioner and the election commissioners are expected to behave in an independent and impartial manner and not as "political stooges of their masters who appoint them".
"The Election Commission is a constitutional institution of continuity and not a retired members club of a group of political appointees," he said.
"A first reading of the Narendra Modi government appointed Election Commission's biased opinion and subsequent notification issued by the BJP's central government to hastily disqualify 20 elected Delhi MLAs shows the constitutional authorities today are behaving like handmaidens of the central government," he alleged.
Citing a poll panel order, Bharadwaj said in June last year, the then Chief Election Commissioner Nasim Zaidi and Election Commissioner AK Joti had said the commission will intimate the next date of hearing to all the parties concerned in the present proceedings in due course.
However, the date of next hearing was not conveyed and the poll panel arrived at the decision before hearing them out, he claimed.
"AAP has complete faith in the judiciary and will challenge this biased, illegal and illogical order of the Modi government in courts of law," Bharadwaj said.
AAP MLAs were appointed parliamentary secretaries and this was described by petitioner Prashant Patel as them holding offices of profit. Parliamentary Secretaries assist ministers with their work. AAP insisted that despite holding the office these MLAs did not take any salaries or perks.
With inputs from agencies
Updated Date: Jan 22, 2018 17:38 PM