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20 AAP legislators face disqualification, party says EC ‘should not be letter box of PMO’

The possible disqualification of Aam Aadmi Party’s legislators will not pose an immediate threat to the Arvind Kejriwal government, which has 65 legislators including these people in the 70-member House.

delhi Updated: Jan 19, 2018 18:07 IST
Smriti Kak Ramachandran
Smriti Kak Ramachandran
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Aam Aadmi Party‬,‪Election Commission of India‬,‪Member of the Legislative Assembly‬
Aam Aadmi Party leader Saurabh Bhardwaj refuted the reports and said that no hearing has been held before the Election Commission yet.(ANI Photo)

The Election Commission has recommended the disqualification of a group of Aam Aadmi Party legislators for allegedly holding an office of profit, sources said on Friday, a move that may lead to their removal from the Delhi assembly.

The poll panel, however, said the recommendation on the 20 legislators was subjudice, refusing to comment on what it conveyed to President Ram Nath Kovind.

The President is bound to go by the recommendation of the EC. In cases where petitions are made seeking disqualification of lawmakers, the President sends a reference to the poll panel, which decides on the case by sending back its opinion.

In the present case, the petition was made to disqualify 21 MLAs, but one of them — Jarnail Singh — had resigned last year to contest the Punjab elections.

AAP leader Ashutosh lashed out at the poll panel, saying the EC had never “touched so low ever”.

“The EC should not be the letter box of the PMO. But that is the reality today,” tweeted the journalist-turned-politician.

“It is a recommendation made without hearing the arguments of MLAs on the false allegation of office of profit,” said Nagendar Sharma, media advisor to chief minister Arvind Kejriwal.

AAP spokesperson Saurabh Bhardwaj said: “Till now, there is no confirmation on the EC’s recommendation. Whatever is being run is on the basis of sources. The case is about office-of-profit and none of our MLAs are taking any government benefits or even the salary.”

The BJP welcomed the decision and demanded that Kejriwal should quit owing moral responsibility on the issue.

The possible disqualifications of the 20 MLAs — including Delhi’s transport minister Kailash Gahlot — will not pose an immediate threat to the Kejriwal government, which has 65 legislators including these people in the 70-member House. But the setback is likely to demoralise the party after a string of election losses.

Should the MLAs be disqualified and by-elections called, it will again test the party’s grip on the national capital. A poor showing will also weaken Kejriwal’s hold over the Delhi assembly.

In June last year, the poll panel had said the AAP MLAs “did hold de facto the office of parliamentary secretaries”. The party reacted then by saying it respected the ruling and hinted that it might challenge it in court.

A parliamentary secretary assists a minister, and the office comes with perks as well as a measure of political influence. Often MLAs who can’t be accommodated in the government are appointed to the post.

The controversy dates back to the weeks after the party won a majority in the Delhi assembly elections and appointed the lawmakers as parliament secretaries in March, 2015.

As protests over the appointments grew, the Kejriwal government sought to shield the MLAs by excluding the post of parliamentary secretary from the ambit of office of profit laws.

But former President Pranab Mukherjee refused to approve it, and referred a private petition in the matter to the Election Commission. Separately, reacting to another private petition, the Delhi high court struck down the posts of parliament secretary in September, 2015.

After this, the MLAs petitioned the Election Commission that it shouldn’t entertain the office of profit case against them because the Delhi high court had already set aside their appointment as parliamentary secretaries.

List of 20 AAP MLAs facing disqualification
S.No.MLAConstituencyMinistry/Department
1 Adarsh Shastri Dwarka I&T
2 Alka Lamba Chandni Chowk Tourism
3 Anil Vajpayee Gandhi Nagar Health
4 Avtar Singh Kalkaji Gurdwara elections
5 Kailash Gehilot Najafgarg Law
6 Madan Lal Kasurba Nagar Vigilance
7 Manoj Kumar Kondli Food and Civil Supplies
8 Naresh Yadav Mehrauli Labour
9 Nitin Tyagi Laxmi Nagar Women and Child and Social Welfare
10 Praveen Kumar Jangpura Education
11 Rajesh Gupta Wazirpur Health
12 Rajesh Rishi Janakpuri Health
13 Sanjeev Jha Burari Transport
14 Sarita Singh Rohtas Nagar Employment
15 Som Dutt Sadar Bazar Industries
16 Sharad Kumar Narela Revenue Ministry
17 Shiv Charan Goel Moti Nagar finance
18 Sukhbir Singh Mundka Languages & Welfare of SC/ST/OBC
19 Vijendar Garg Rajinder Nagar PWD
20 Jarnail Singh Tilak Nagar Development

(With agency inputs)

First Published: Jan 19, 2018 14:40 IST