The Election Commission on Friday recommended that 20 MLAs of the Aam Aadmi Party in Delhi be disqualified as they held offices of profit while being legislators, News18 reported, citing sources. President Ram Nath Kovind will make the final decision based on the recommendation.
The poll panel refused to comment on the reports, as the matter was sub judice, ANI reported. “Recommendation on AAP MLAs is sub judice, will not comment on what recommendation has been given to the President,” the Election Commission said.
AAP spokesperson Saurabh Bharadwaj said there is no credible information on the matter yet, reported ANI. “No hearing has been held before the Election Commission until now,” Bharadwaj told reporters. “I want to ask if people from constituencies of these 21 MLAs have seen them utilising government facilities like car, house or salary.”
Senior party leader Raghav Chaddha also said that the poll panel has not yet heard the matter and said it is making “ill-founded recommendations”. “This is a blatant violation of principles of natural justice. This is taking vendetta to next level,” Chaddha said, according to NDTV.
Responding to the reports on Twitter, party spokesperson Nagendar Sharma said the EC had sent the recommendation “without even hearing the main matter on merits”.
If the 20 legislators are disqualified, it will not affect Aam Aadmi Party’s majority in the 70-seat Delhi Assembly. The party has 66 legislators in the Assembly.
In June 2016, the Congress had approached the Election Commission, alleging that 21 MLAs of the AAP had been appointed parliamentary secretaries in March 2015. In September 2016, the Delhi High Court set aside their appointments as parliamentary secretaries.
One of the MLAs, Jarnail Singh, resigned last year to contest Assembly elections in Punjab, after which proceedings against him were dropped.
The Indian Constitution prohibits legislators from holding an office that would allow them to benefit financially. After the allegations, the AAP government passed a Bill seeking the exclusion of parliamentary secretaries from the ambit of this law, but then President Pranab Mukherjee rejected the bill.
Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had then claimed that the parliament secretaries worked in the posts for free. He alleged that Prime Minister Narendra Modi was behind the president’s decision to reject the Bill. He also said the Bharatiya Janata Party and Congress had appointed legislators as parliamentary secretaries during their terms in power.
In June 2017, the Election Commission rejected the legislators’ petitions urging it to quash proceedings into the office of profit case against them. It had asked them to submit evidence to support their case against allegations that they received benefits from their posts.