New Delhi: President Ram Nath Kovind on Sunday accepted the Election Commission's recommendation to disqualify twenty MLAs of Delhi's ruling Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) for holding offices of profit.
"Having considered the matter in the light of the opinion expressed by the Election Commission, I, Ram Nath Kovind, President of India, in the 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," a notification issued by the Law Ministry quoted the President as saying.
The 20 MLAs include - Adarsh Shastri (Dwarka), Alka Lamba (Chandni Chowk), Anil Bajpai (Gandhi Nagar), Avtar Singh (Kalkaji), Kailash Gahlot (Najafgarh) - who is also a minister - Madan Lal (Kasturba Nagar), Manoj Kumar (Kondli), Naresh Yadav (Mehrauli), Nitin Tyagi (Laxmi Nagar), Praveen Kumar (Jangpura), Rajesh Gupta (Wazirpur), Rajesh Rishi Janakpuri), Sanjeev Jha (Burari), Sarita Singh (Rohtas Nagar), Som Dutt (Sadar Bazar), Sharad Kumar (Narela), Shiv Charan Goel (Moti Nagar), Sukhbir Singh (Mundka), Vijendar Garg (Rajinder Nagar) and Jarnail Singh (Tilak Nagar).
In its opinion sent to President Kovind, the EC had said that the MLAs, by occupying the post of parliamentary secretaries between March 13, 2015, and September 8, 2016, had held offices of profit and were liable to be disqualified as legislators.
"Whether or not the individual parliamentary secretaries had actually derived the benefits or participated in executive functions of the government is of no relevance" as the Supreme Court in the Jaya Bachchan case had laid down that if the post falls under office of profit, the disqualification is imminent, the EC had said, as per PTI.
The poll panel had also said that it is basing its opinion on judicial pronouncements of the past, the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi Act and the Constitution.
The President is bound by the recommendation of the Commission. Under the rules, petitions to the President seeking disqualification of lawmakers are referred to the EC. The poll panel takes a decision and sends its recommendation to the Rashtrapati Bhavan which is accepted.
The petition before the ECI was filed by one Prashant Patel against 21 MLAs who were appointed as parliamentary secretaries by the AAP government in Delhi.
The proceedings against Jarnail Singh were dropped after he resigned as the Rajouri Garden MLA to contest the Punjab Assembly polls.
The twenty MLAs had held a meeting with Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, Deputy CM Manish Sisodia and other senior AAP leaders on Saturday after which they had decided to approach the President.
Sisodia had said after the meet, "The MLAs were not given an opportunity to present evidence with them. It is unconstitutional and illegal." He had added, "We will go to the people's court which is the biggest court."
The AAP had also launched an attack on CEC AK Joti and had said that he was "repaying the debt" to Prime Minister Narendra Modi before his retirement on Monday, January 22, 2018.
"AK Joti was the principal secretary under (the then Gujarat CM) Narendra Modi and then the chief secretary of Gujarat. He is retiring on Monday. So you want to repay Modi ji's debt. You are mortgaging a constitutional post like the Election Commission," AAP's Delhi unit spokesman Saurabh Bharadwaj had alleged.
"The EC should not be the letterbox of the PMO. But that is the reality today," another senior AAP leader Ashutosh had tweeted.
EC SHOULD NOT BE THE LETTER BOX OF THE PMO.. but that is a reality today.
— ashutosh (@ashutosh83B) January 19, 2018
On the other hand, Kejriwal had tweeted saying that in the end truth always wins.
जब आप सच्चाई और ईमानदारी पर चलते हैं तो बहुत बाधाएँ आती हैं। ऐसा होना स्वाभाविक है। पर ब्रह्मांड की सारी दृश्य और अदृश्य शक्तियाँ आपकी मदद करती हैं। ईश्वर आपका साथ देता है। क्योंकि आप अपने लिए नहीं,देश और समाज के लिए काम करते हैं। इतिहास गवाह है कि जीत अंत में सचाई की होती है।
— Arvind Kejriwal (@ArvindKejriwal) January 19, 2018
Meanwhile, on January 19, 2018, the Delhi High Court had refused to pass any interim order of protection to AAP MLAs. During the hearing, the court had made it clear that it was not inclined to pass any interim order in view of the conduct of the MLAs in the proceedings before the poll panel.
It was displeased by the MLAs' conduct of telling the poll panel not to go ahead with the matter as the issue has been challenged in the HC.
The court was referring to the MLAs' petitions filed in August 2017 challenging the poll panel's decision to continue hearing a complaint against them for allegedly holding an office of profit.
Advocate Manish Vashishth, appearing for one of the disqualified MLAs, Sharad Kumar, had told the court that the poll panel did not hear them before arriving at the decision to disqualify them.
(With Agency inputs)