Trouble for AAP govt in Delhi: President withholds bill seeking to protect 21 MLAs

In a jolt to Delhi's ruling AAP government, President Pranab Mukherjee on Monday refused to give assent to a legislation that seeks to protect 21 party MLAs, who have been appointed parliamentary secretaries. The MLAs now face the prospect of disqualification.

Responding to the decision, Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal tweeted, "Modi doesn't respect democracy. He is scared of the Aam Aadmi Party.

"This decision has no bearing on the membership of the parliamentary secretaries," AAP leader Raghav Chadha said in an interview to Times Now.

According to the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi Act, 1991, Delhi can have one parliamentary secretary, attached to the office of chief minister. However, Kejriwal, in March last year, had passed an order to appoint 21 MLAs  as parliamentary secretaries for smooth functioning of the Delhi government.

In a series of tweets, Kejriwal further said that the MLAs were not being paid any money for the post. "But, Modi wants these MLAs to sit at home jobless. Neither will he work himself nor let the MLAs work."

Earlier in May, the Election Commission had issued notices to the 21 MLAs asking them to explain how their appointment as parliamentary secretaries does not fall under office of profit and why their Assembly membership should not be cancelled.

In their response to the poll body, the MLAs had said that parliamentary secretary is a post without any remuneration or power. A senior party functionary maintained that there was no "pecuniary benefit" associated with the post.

The official government website maintains, "These parliamentary secretaries will not be eligible any remuneration or any perks of any kind, from the government- meaning no burden on exchequer."

Thereafter, the AAP government had sought an amendment to the Delhi Members of Legislative Assembly (Removal of Disqualification) Act, 1997. Through the Bill, which has been forwarded to the Centre by Lt Governor Najeeb Jung, AAP wants "retrospective" exemption for the parliamentary secretaries from disqualification provisions.

Questions have been raised over their appointment by the opposition. The Lt Governor had said that the office of parliamentary secretary is defined as an "office of profit if one looks at the statutes of Delhi" and that as per the GNCT Act, the city can have only one parliamentary secretary attached to the office of the Chief Minister.

The 21 MLAs who could face action include Alka Lamba, Jarnail Singh, Adarsh Shastri and Rajesh Gupta.

With inputs from PTI

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Updated Date: Jun 13, 2016 21:49:13 IST