The Aam Aadmi Party on Saturday said the Election Commission had no right to recommend the disqualification of 20 of its party MLAs in the office of profit case as the Delhi High Court had set aside their appointments as parliamentary secretaries in 2016.
Senior AAP leader Gopal Rai said the recommendations were a “parting gift” from Election Commission Chief Achal Kumar Joti to the prime minister. “What is the reason for this gift?” he said at a press conference, according to IANS. “Everyone in the country has only one question on their mind – what was the compulsion for him to take the decision with only two days to retire?”
Rai said Joti was the principal secretary of Gujarat when Modi was the chief minister of the state.
Delhi Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia reiterated that the Election Commission had not given a chance to the party to explain their stand. “We appeal to the president to hear our view too, MLAs will meet the president.”
Sisodia said the AAP government was being deliberately targeted for the honest work it has been doing in the national Capital.
Earlier in the day, AAP spokesperson Sanjay Singh accused the Election Commission of discrimination. “In other states, wherever the parliamentary secretaries are appointed, they were given the status of minister of state and all facilities were given to them,” AAP spokesperson Sanjay Singh told reporters at a press conference. “However, this did not happen in Delhi, we were discriminated against...It is not a new thing, but in the end, truth will emerge as victorious.”
Singh called the Election Commission’s recommendation “one-sided” and alleged that the poll panel had ignored the rule of law while making the recommendations. The Narendra Modi-led government was suppressing democracy, he alleged, adding that there was no more meaning left to the constitutional institutions in the country.
In response to the Election Commission’s notices in March 2016, the AAP had 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 had 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.