NEW DELHI: In a massive blow to Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, the Election Commission has recommended to the President that 20 legislators of his Aam Aadmi Party be disqualified for holding offices of profit as parliamentary secretaries, sources said today.
Once the President approves the recommendation, by-elections will have to be held for the 20 assembly seats. The ruling AAP has a giant majority in the 70-member Delhi assembly with 65 seats and the disqualification will not endanger the Arvind Kejriwal government. It will come down to 45 seats, still comfortably across the half-way mark at 35.
AAP will challenge the poll panel’s decision in the Supreme Court. The party’s Raghav Chaddha said, “EC hasn’t even heard the OoP matter on merits and now makes ill-founded recommendations without giving AAP MLAs an opportunity of being heard. Blatant violation of principles of natural justice. This is taking vendetta to next level.”
Mr Kejriwal and his party have insisted that the appointments violate no rules as none of the AAP legisators draw salaries as parliament secretaries. But rival parties have argued that the posts allowed them perks like offices and cars and so were offices of profit.
In 2015, soon after AAP swept the Delhi elections, Mr Kejriwal had appointed 21 legislators as parliament secretaries. A lawyer Prashant Patel had appealed to the President against the move alleging that it violated constitutional provisions and the President had sent it to the Election Commission for examination.
In 2016, the Congress petitioned the Election Commission to disqualify the 21 MLAs and had been pressing upon the panel since to act on its request. Later that year, the High Court had set aside the appointments noting that Delhi’s Lieutenant Governor had not cleared them.
Last year, the Election Commission had rejected a petition by the MLAs to drop the office of profit case. One of the 21 MLAs had resigned last year.
Mr Kejriwal and his party have insisted that the appointments violate no rules as none of the AAP legislators draw salaries as parliament secretaries. But rival parties have argued that the posts allowed them perks like offices and cars.
COMMENTS”Kejriwal has no right to continue. Half of his cabinet ministers removed on corruption charges! 20 MLAs who were enjoying ministerial perks would be disqualified! Where is Lokpal? The MLAs and Ministers enjoying perks of power and foreign travel-Where is political probity,'” tweeted Congress’ Delhi chief Ajay Maken, who had petitioned the Election Commission against AAP.
The BJP’s Vijay Jolly said he welcomed the Election Commission’s decision and called it the “final nail in the coffin of the Delhi government.” He added, “this should be an eye-opener for the misgovernance of the Aam Aadmi Party in the capital. They have subverted the constitutional norms of the government in the capital and misused the official machinery appointing the Parliamentary Secretaries and total disregardance of the laid down norms, rules and regulation concerning the government. Election Commission verdict is final nail in the coffin of the Delhi government and also in the tall claims of AAP and its deliverance of the Justice to people of national capital.”