The Election Commission on Saturday rejected petitions by 21 Aam Aadmi Party legislators urging it to quash proceedings into the office of profit case against them. The poll panel also said that the Delhi High Court’s order setting aside their appointments as parliamentary secretaries would not hinder the disqualification proceedings as the “the MLAs held the posts de facto”.
The party issued a statement that said that the panel’s order should not be misinterpreted. “There is no question of hearing a petition for office [of profit] which never existed according to the High Court,” the party’s statement said. “All remedies are available to challenge this order of the EC.”
The EC order said that the commission was of the “considered opinion that the AAP legislators did hold de facto the office of parliamentary secretaries from March 13, 2015 to September 8, 2016”. Proceedings were dropped against Jarnail Singh, who had resigned from Rajouri Garden to contest the Punjab Assembly elections, NDTV reported.
The AAP legislators will now have to submit evidence to support their case against allegations that they received benefits from their posts. If the EC disqualifies the legislators, fresh elections will need to be held for those seats. The panel is expected to announce its decision by August.
In March 2015, the lawmakers were appointed parliamentary secretaries by the AAP-led Delhi government. President Pranab Mukherjee rejected the government’s amendment to the Delhi Members of Legislative Assembly (Removal of Disqualification) Act, 1997, which sought to exclude the post of parliamentary secretary from the definition of “office of profit” with retrospective effect in June 2015.
The Delhi High Court’s had set aside their appointments in September 2016 as the lieutenant governor had not approved it.
Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had claimed that the parliament secretaries all worked in the posts for free. He alleged that Prime Minister Narendra Modi was behind the president’s decision to reject the Bill.