The Election Commission has cleared Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia of allegations of holding an office of profit, PTI reported on Sunday. Aam Aadmi Party MLA Surinder Singh, who was accused of illegally occupying four government flats using his membership at the New Delhi Municipal Corporation, was also given a clean chit, The Indian Express reported.
A petition had sought Sisodia’s disqualification as a legislator as there is no provision for the post of deputy chief minister in the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi Act. However, the poll panel said it had found no merit in the plea and cleared Sisodia of the charges. The EC observed that his post could not be considered an office of profit as several other states had deputy chief ministers.
“He cannot be disqualified on this ground. The recommendation has been sent to the president,” an unidentified official said, according to PTI. The Election Commission functionary added that President Pranab Mukherjee was “bound” by the recommendation and had no “discretion” on the subject.
MPs and state legislators are not allowed to accept government positions that offer money or other benefits. Last year, Bharatiya Janata Party leader Vivek Garg had filed a complaint with the president alleging that Sisodia’s appointment as an MLA amounted to holding an office of profit. Mukherjee had forwarded the complaint to the polling monitor for its opinion.
The Election Commission’s decision comes days after Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal questioned its impartiality and independence. The Aam Aadmi Party chief had accused election commissioners AK Jyoti and OP Rawat of being close to the BJP. On April 21, Rawat had recused himself from all cases pending before the polling monitor that are related to the AAP. “I have recused myself so that he [Kejriwal] can have faith in the independence of the institution,” he had said.
The EC is hearing two cases related to AAP legislators holding office of profit. As many as 21 AAP MLAs face disqualification after President Pranab Mukherjee, on June 13, 2016, rejected the Delhi government’s Bill that had sought to exempt the post of parliamentary secretary from the dual office of profit law. Meanwhile, 27 other party MLAs face accusations of holding office of profit, with the case is its preliminary stage.