Thirty-one-year-old advocate from Uttar Pradesh Prashant Patel, who is the reason for the ongoing troubles of the Aam Aadmi Party, said on Friday that he was a layman and not affiliated to any political party, but only interested in politics, The Indian Express reported.
Patel had on June 19, 2015, sent a report to the Election Commission and then President Pranab Mukherjee that 21 MLAs of the Aam Aadmi Party in Delhi should be disqualified as they held offices of profit while being legislators. He claimed they were getting monetary compensation. Mukherjee sent Patel’s complaint to the Election Commission, asking for its opinion. The commission issued notices to the MLAs in March 2016.
“I did not file this petition because I am a part of any political party. I sent it as a layman,” Patel said after reports emerged on Friday that the poll panel had recommended the disqualification of Aam Aadmi Party’s legislators. For someone interested in politics, in a city like Delhi, it is impossible to avoid it, Patel added. “After doing research, I found the move to be unconstitutional and filed a plea with the President’s secretariat.”
In response to the EC’s notices in March 2016, the AAP passed a Bill amending the Delhi Members of Legislative Assembly (Removal of Disqualification) Act, 1997 to exempt the post of parliamentary secretary from the definition of the “office of profit”. The party maintained that it was not an office of profit since the legislators were not getting “pecuniary benefit”. AAP chief and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal claimed they were “working for free”. But the Bill was rejected by Mukherjee in June 2016.
In September 2016, the Delhi High Court scrapped the legislators’ appointment as parliamentary secretaries.
The legislators then went to the Election Commission arguing that since the High Court had declared their appointment null and void, the poll panel could not hear a petition against them for holding an office that never existed. The commission did not agree, writing to the President in June last year that the MLAs “did hold de facto the office of parliamentary secretaries” from March 13, 2015 to September 8, 2016.
One of the MLAs, Jarnail Singh, had resigned last year to contest the Punjab Assembly election, after which proceedings against him were dropped. The commission has now concluded that the post of parliamentary secretary did indeed qualify as an office of profit.