“We’ll move to the judiciary to seek Justice,” says AAP.
New Delhi: On Sunday afternoon the Ministry of Law came out with a President’s notification. In it the President Ram Nath Kovind accepted the recommendation of the Election Commission to disqualify the 20 MLAs of the Aam Aadmi Party ( AAP ), ruling in the national capital, for holding office of profit.
“In the light of the opinion expressed by the Election Commission (EC), the 20 members of the Delhi legislative assembly have been disqualified,” President quoted in the notification.
Reason for Disqualification:
When AAP came to power in Delhi’s Legislative Assembly after winning 67 out of the 70 seats in 2015, 21 lawmakers were been appointed as a parliamentary secretary, holding office of profit. One out of these 21, Jarnail Singh, left his position to fight elections from Punjab.
Though attempts were made to exclude the post of parliamentary secretaries from the ambit of ‘office of profit’ by the Delhi Government, former President Pranab Mukherjee refused to approve the proposal. Later, the Election Commission ( EC ) of India made a complaint to the President in 2015, to disqualify such members of the Legislative Assembly who are holding the parliamentary secretaries posts, by offending Article 102(1)(a) and 191(1) of the Indian Constitution.
What is ‘Office of Profit’?
According to Articles 102(1)(a) and 191(1)(a) of the Constitution, an Member of Parliament ( MP ) or Member of Legislative Assembly( MLA ), is barred to hold such position in the government that yields salaries, allowances and other financial benefits.
“A person shall be disqualified for being chosen as, and for being, a member of either House of Parliament, (a) if he holds any office of profit under the Government of India or the Government of any State, other than an office declared by Parliament by law not to disqualify its holder,” as quoted in the law.
Disappointment for the Aam Admi Party (AAP):
Members of the AAP including Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal believe that the allegations made upon them has no evidence because none of the MLA has received any salaries or any other financial benefits while sitting at the post of Parliamentary Secretary. Their convener said that even before the President’s notification was being declared, 20 MLA had requested an appointment with the President. However they could not get the appointment as the President was ‘not available’.
“We had requested a meeting for Sunday morning, but were denied, and now [Sunday afternoon] we get this news. We will approach the court and will hope for justice,” Mr. Gopal Rai said.
The spokesperson for AAP, Saurabh Bharadwaj also questioned the speed at which the recommendation was accepted by the President.
“The ‘speed’ at which the President delivered the 120-page order raises suspicion about many institutions. Wish the same speed while President & LG sit on legislations passed by Delhi Assembly,” tweeted Mr. Bharadwaj.
“It is unfortunate that the President took the decision in such haste, without even giving us a chance to speak. It is a ploy by the Centre, using constitutional institutions to derail our government. But we will not give up. We have faith in the judiciary. The doors of the High Court and the Supreme Court are still open for us,” said Alka Lamba, MLA from Chandni Chowk and one among the 20 disqualified MLAs.
Meanwhile, other states namely West Bengal, Karnataka, Telangana, Nagaland, Meghalaya, Arunachal Pradesh, Punjab, Mizoram and Manipur have had similar incidents. In West Bengal, Telangana and Punjab, the respective High Courts called the appointments “unconstitutional” and struck down the appointments. The case regarding appointment of parliamentary secretaries is pending in the Karnataka High Court. In Rajasthan, the State passes a Bill in October 2017 to make the posts constitutional, but the validity of this law has been challenged.