The election commission (EC) has cleared Delhi’s deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia and party colleague Surinder Singh of allegations of holding an office of profit, a charge that could have disqualified them as legislators.
The complaint against Sisodia and Aam Aadmi Party MLA Singh was forwarded to the poll panel by the president’s office but was found to be untenable, sources said.
The poll panel’s findings have been sent to President Pranab Mukherjee’s office . Sources said the President has to accept the EC’s recommendations.
The decision comes at a time when the election commission is hearing a similar complaint against 21 AAP legislators, who were appointed parliamentary secretaries to assist various ministers of the Arvind Kejriwal government. The appointments were struck down by the Delhi high court.
The poll panel’s decision, which can have a bearing on the stability of the government, is likely to be announced by May 15.
BJP leader Vivek Garg wrote to Mukherjee, demanding Sisodia’s membership of the Delhi assembly be cancelled as there was no provision for the post of deputy chief minister in the NCT of Delhi act, which deals with government formation, assembly and other such subjects.
Sisodia’s appointment amounted to holding an office of profit, Garg had said.
Members of Parliament and state assemblies can’t accept government positions that offer money or other benefit such as office space or even a car. A violation can lead to the disqualification of a lawmaker under the “office of profit” rules that are meant to ensure independence of legislature and guard legislators from executive’s inducements.
Singh was accused of benefitting from his membership of the New Delhi Municipal Corporation by illegally occupying four government flats.
Delhi’s ruling party has been at loggerheads with the poll panel. Stung by a series of poll defeats, chief minister Arvind Kejriwal and several colleagues have raised doubts over the electronic voting machine, alleging EVMs were tampered with to benefit the BJP.
Kejriwal even questioned impartiality of election commissioners OP Rawat and AK Joti. Rawat has recused himself from hearing all cases and complaints related to the AAP, saying it was important to protect EC’s credibility.
In 2006, Congress president Sonia Gandhi quit her Lok Sabha membership after the Opposition accused her of holding an office of profit when she was appointed the chairperson of the national advisory council, a body set up in 2004 to advise prime minister Manmohan Singh.