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Big Blow to AAP, 20 MLAs Stand Disqualified as President Approves EC Recommendation

Twenty Delhi MLAs of the ruling Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) were disqualified on Sunday with the President of India approving an Election Commission recommendation against the lawmakers in office-of-profit case.

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Updated:January 21, 2018, 4:47 PM IST
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Big Blow to AAP, 20 MLAs Stand Disqualified as President Approves EC Recommendation
File photo of Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and Deputy CM Manish Sisodia. (PTI Photo)
New Delhi: Twenty Delhi MLAs of the ruling Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) were disqualified on Sunday with the President of India approving an Election Commission recommendation against the lawmakers in the office-of-profit case.

"...Having considered the matter in the light of the opinion expressed by the Election Commission, I, Ram Nath Kovind, president of India, in exercise of the powers...do here hold that the aforesaid 20 members of the Delhi legislative assembly stand disqualified from being members of the said assembly," read the notification issued by law ministry, quoting the President.

The disqualification will not endanger the Arvind Kejriwal government but its numbers will come down significantly in the 70-seat Delhi Assembly. They would still enjoy a comfortable majority, with 46 out of 50 seats in the pruned House.

The President’s assent also paves the way for by-election in the 20 seats, giving a chance to the BJP and the Congress to increase their tally. While the BJP has four seats in the Delhi Assembly, the Congress has zero.

The AAP was quick to denounce the President's decision, with its leader Ashutosh describing it as unconstitutional and dangerous for the democracy.

Alka Lamba, one of the 20 disqualified AAP MLAs, said the party would appeal against the decision in court. “Unfortunate that the President took the decision in such haste, without giving us chance to speak. It's an act of Centre using constitutional institutions. We've trust on judiciary. Doors of HC & SC is open for us,” she said.

Gopal Rai, the president of the Delhi unit of the AAP, claimed "victimisation" and asserted the party was "not afraid of elections".

Both Sisodia and Rai claimed the 20 MLAs did not receive even a "single" penny as parliamentary secretaries or any other benefit like office space or accommodation while serving on the post.

"They were appointed to help the government as it was working on Mohalla Clinics, skill centres, unauthorised colonies development and trader-friendly VAT scheme. They used to travel on their own expense. They were not paid even a single paisa as salary or facilities like office and bungalow," Sisodia said.

The issue in front of the Election Commission was whether the office of Parliamentary Secretary in the GNCTD, 1991 constitutes an ‘office of profit’. Article 191 of the Constitution has not defined what is an ‘office of profit’, which has paved the way to the Courts to lay down the law.

The entire issue came into existence when on March 13, 2015, the Arvind Kejriwal government passed an order appointing 21 MLAs as Parliamentary Secretaries. This was challenged by Advocate Prashant Patel who petitioned President Pranab Mukherjee on June 19, 2015, that these MLAs were now holding ‘office of profit’ and should be disqualified.

The Delhi Legislative Assembly, then passed the Delhi Member of Legislative Assembly (Removal of Disqualification) ( Amendment Bill ), 2015 excluding Parliamentary Secretaries from “ office of profit’ with retrospective effect.

The AAP has approached the Delhi High Court seeking a stay on EC's recommendation. The court has listed the case for a hearing on Monday.

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| Edited by: Nitya Thirumalai
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