President Ram Nath Kovind has dismissed a plea to disqualify 27 Aam Aadmi Party legislators in Delhi for allegedly holding offices of profit, PTI reported on Thursday. Law student Vibhor Anand had filed the petition with the Election Commission in 2016, challenging the MLAs’ appointment as chairpersons of Rogi Kalyan Samitis, or patient welfare committees, in various Delhi hospitals.
The president signed the order after the Election Commission said in July that the plea has no merit.
In his petition, Anand had claimed that legislators can only become members of the committees and not their chairpersons. However, according to the state government’s health and family welfare department, the committees are advisory in nature that help hospitals develop strategies.
Ten of the 27 legislators named in the petition are among those accused of violating office-of-profit norms in a different case. That set of 20 legislators was disqualified in January after the Election Commission concluded that they held offices of profit as parliamentary secretaries to ministers in the state government – posts they were appointed to in March 2015. On March 23, the Delhi High Court set aside the poll panel’s recommendation and asked the commission to consider each case afresh.
The poll panel had first issued notices about the appointment of these 20 legislators in March 2016. After that, the AAP government amended the Delhi Members of Legislative Assembly (Removal of Disqualification) Act, 1997, to exempt the post from the definition of “office of profit”. Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal claimed at the time that the parliamentary secretaries were “working for free”. But Pranab Mukherjee, then India’s president, rejected the bill in June 2016. In September 2016, the Delhi High Court scrapped the appointments.