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Delhi High Court sets aside disqualification of 20 AAP MLAs in office of profit case, sends matter back to EC

The Aam Aadmi Party received a major shot in the arm on Friday as the Delhi High Court set aside the disqualification of 20 of its MLAs. The court has now transferred the matter to the Election Commission allowing the AAP MLAs a chance to present their side through an oral hearing, media reports said.

Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, responding to the verdict said, "Truth has triumphed. AAP MLAs, who were elected by the people, were disqualified in an inappropriate manner. The Delhi High Court has given justice to the people of Delhi. This is a victory for the people of Delhi, and we give them our good wishes."

AAP spokesperson Saurabh Bharadwaj said, "The principles of natural justice hold that a person against whom an accusation is made should have a chance to explain his or her stand. However, the Election Commission had not done so. The Delhi High Court has set aside this order."

During the arguments, the MLAs had told the high court that the Election Commission's order disqualifying them for allegedly holding office-of-profit was passed in "complete violation of natural justice" as they were not given an opportunity to explain their stand before the poll panel.

The bench was also requested by the legislators to remand their case back to the poll panel with a direction to hear the matter afresh. They had approached the high court challenging their disqualification after President Ram Nath Kovind gave his assent to the Election Commission's recommendation.

 Delhi High Court sets aside disqualification of 20 AAP MLAs in office of profit case, sends matter back to EC

File image of Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal. PTI

Backing its recommendation to the president for AAP MLAs' disqualification, the poll panel had submitted that the legislators cannot claim that they were not holding office-of-profit. It had also claimed that these MLAs' pleas were not maintainable and were liable to be dismissed.

The MLAs are accused of holding offices of profit, as they were appointed parliamentary secretaries to ministers in the Delhi government in March 2015. This was soon after they were elected to the Delhi Assembly. In September 2016, the Delhi High Court had ruled against their appointment as parliamentary secretaries, after hearing their pleas on a daily basis since 7 February.

The Delhi High Court had on 24 January refused to stay the Centre's notification disqualifying them but had restrained the poll panel from taking any "precipitate measures" such as announcing dates for bypolls to fill the vacancies.

The Election Commission had on 19 January recommended the disqualification of 20 AAP MLAs — Alka Lamba, Adarsh Shastri, Sanjeev Jha, Rajesh Gupta, Kailash Gahlot, Vijendra Garg, Praveen Kumar, Sharad Kumar, Madan Lal, 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.

The president had accepted the EC's opinion the next day.

With inputs from PTI

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Updated Date: Mar 23, 2018 16:25:30 IST

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