The Aam Aadmi Party MLAs who had filed a petition in the Delhi High Court seeking a stay on the Election Commission’s recommendation for their disqualification in the office-of-profit case withdrew their plea on Monday, Bar and Bench reported.
The lawmakers will now file a fresh petition since the earlier one was deemed “infructuous”, or unnecessary, as President Ram Nath Kovind had accepted the recommendation on Sunday and issued a notification disqualifying them.
The party has alleged that the poll panel had not given them a fair hearing before sending the recommendation to the president.
The counsel for the Election Commission told the High Court that the communication recommending the disqualification of 20 AAP MLAs was sent on January 19. The Delhi High Court posted the hearing in the writ petition, which had been filed earlier in the case, to March 20.
The MLAs are accused of holding offices of profit in the past as they were appointed parliamentary secretaries to ministers in the Delhi government in March 2015. This was soon after they were elected to the Assembly. In September 2016, however, the Delhi High Court had scrapped their appointment as parliamentary secretaries.
Political parties in power usually appoint as parliamentary secretaries those MLAs who are not given a position in the government.
In response to the Election Commission’s notices in March 2016, the AAP government had passed a bill amending the Delhi Members of Legislative Assembly (Removal of Disqualification) Act, 1997, to exempt the post from the definition of “office-of-profit”. The party maintained that the legislators did not hold offices of profit as they were not getting “pecuniary benefit”.
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had claimed that they were “working for free”. But former President Pranab Mukherjee had rejected the bill in June 2016.
After the Delhi High Court set aside the MLAs’ appointment as parliamentary secretaries in September 2016, the MLAs told the Election Commission 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, and wrote to the president that the MLAs “did hold de facto the office of parliamentary secretaries” from March 13, 2015 to September 8, 2016.