Om Prakash Rawat, who will take over as chief election commissioner on Tuesday, said on Monday that the Aam Aadmi Party had two opportunities to request the poll monitor to hold hearings on the office-of-profit matter, but did not do so, The Indian Express reported.
On January 19, the Election Commission had recommended the disqualification of 20 AAP MLAs for holding offices of profit. President Ram Nath Kovind then disqualified the legislators.
The poll monitor had issued the AAP MLAs two notices – on September 28, 2017 and November 2, 2017 – to file their written submissions on the information the Delhi government had provided on the offices of parliamentary secretaries the legislators had occupied. The newly-appointed chief election commissioner said the notices were issued for the purpose of giving the AAP MLAs a hearing.
“If they felt the need or imperative for oral evidences, then they should have pointed it out and we would have fixed a date for hearing,” Rawat said. “But you [AAP] are not talking about that.”
On June 23, 2017, the Election Commission had rejected AAP’s plea that since the Delhi High Court had set aside the appointment of parliamentary secretaries, the question of profiting from the posts did not arise. In response to the notices in September and November, the AAP MLAs had urged the Election Commission not to hold hearings until the Delhi High Court decided on the AAP’s appeal against the June 23 order.
Rawat had recused himself from all AAP-related matters after Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal accused him of bias. However, the party had demanded that all election commissioners attend the hearings. In response, the poll body said AAP did not want the hearings to proceed.
However, on Monday, Rawat was cautious. “One can’t say definitively [that AAP tried to stall proceedings] because there is no proof,” he told The Indian Express. “The only thing we have is that the sequence of events, as they happened. These show that maybe, yes, AAP was trying to stall the proceedings.”