Setback for AAP MLAs, EC to Continue Hearing Office of Profit Case
File photo of Aam Aadmi Party chief and Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal.
New Delhi: Trouble continues for the 21 Aam Aadmi Party MLAs who are currently under investigation for allegedly holding 'office of profit' as the Election Commission of India (ECI) on Saturday refused to dismiss the cases against them. This comes despite the Delhi High Court setting aside their appointment as parliamentary secretaries.
Of the accused MLAs, proceedings were dropped against Jarnail Singh after he resigned as the Rajouri Garden MLA to contest Assembly polls in Punjab.
Responding to the MLAs' plea to dismiss the case, the EC said, "The Commission is of the considered opinion that the representatives did hold de facto the office of parliamentary secretaries from 13th March 2015 to 8th September 2016 and the interpretation sought to be put by them on the order dated 8th September of the Honorable Delhi High Court that they did not hold any office is not legally tenable."
The Commission said that the "reference relating to the alleged disqualification" of the AAP MLAs "survives". The proceedings against them are now to continue and the Commission will notify them about the date of the next hearing.
The AAP, too, issued a statement, which said, "Election Commission's recent order should not be misinterpreted. High Court of Delhi had declared very Order of appointment of 21 Parliamentary Secretaries as null and void. Therefore there is no question of hearing a petition for an office which never existed as per Delhi High Court. However, Election Commission has ordered that it will still hear the petition. All remedies are available to challenge this order of EC. We respect the orders of Hon'ble High Court as well as Hon'ble Election Commission."
The order comes days before Chief Election Commissioner Nasim Zaidi demits office in July.
Election Commissioner OP Rawat, who recused himself from the case after Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had questioned his impartiality, has not signed on the order.
The petitioner, Prashant Patel, maintained that the high court order should have no bearing on the case being heard by the EC as the MLAs were enjoying the fruits of that office till their appointment was set aside by the high court.
On September 8, the high court had set aside the appointment of the 21 AAP MLAs as parliamentary secretaries. The court had said the order to appoint them as parliamentary secretaries was given without the concurrence of the Lieutenant Governor.
A bench of Chief Justice G Rohini and Justice Sangita Dhingra Sehgal had set aside the March 13, 2015 government order after the counsel appearing for the Delhi government "conceded" that it was issued without taking concurrence or views of the LG.
The poll panel had heard the case on December 16 last before it got busy with Assembly elections in five states. On March 27, the Commission had reserved its order on the issue.
(With PTI inputs)