Office of profit: AAP MLAs move HC against disqualification

Office of profit: AAP MLAs move HC against disqualification
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New Delhi: The Delhi High Court will tomorrow here fresh petitions filed by 20 AAP MLAs challenging the Centre’s notification against their disqualification as legislators for holding office of profit.

The fresh petitions, which were filed a day after their earlier pleas became infructuous on account of President giving his assent to the Election Commission’s recommendation to disqualify them, said the decision by the President as well as the Election Commission (EC) were taken in “undue haste”.

The MLAs, whose appointment to the post of Parliamentary Secretaries was held as office of profit, contended that the entire episode leading to their disqualification was a clear manifestation of the process in which they were denied the principle of natural justice of being heard.

Their petitions were mentioned today before a bench of Justices S Ravindra Bhat and A K Chawla, which listed them for hearing tomorrow.

Advocate Manish Vashisht, appearing for five of the legislators, submitted that “the findings of the EC are contrary to Article 14 (equality before the law) of the Constitution of India, ultra vires, void ab initio and an attack on the basic fabric of democracy.”

The move came after the AAP MLAs yesterday withdrew their pleas challenging the Election Commission’s recommendation which had received Presidential assent.
On January 19, the poll panel had made the recommendation for the disqualification of the 20 legislators, which was given assent by the President.

On January 20, the Ministry of Law and Justice issued a notification that the President held that the 20 MLAs stand disqualified under Section 15(1)(a) of the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi (GNCTD) Act.

The EC had made the recommendation while deciding a plea by advocate Prashant Patel, who had sought disqualification of 21 AAP MLAs for holding the office of parliamentary secretaries, which he had said amounted to office of profit.

The proceedings against Jarnail Singh were dropped after he resigned as the Rajouri Garden MLA to contest the Punjab Assembly polls.
The plea by the MLAs sought quashing and setting aside of the January 19 opinion of the EC and the Centre’s January 20 notification stating the President had held that the 20 MLAs stand disqualified under the GNCTD Act.

The notification came after the EC wrote to the President recommending disqualification of 20 AAP MLAs for holding office of profit while serving as Parliamentary Secretaries between March 13, 2015 and September 8, 2016.

The 20 MLAs include Adarsh Shastri (Dwarka), Alka Lamba (Chandni Chowk), Anil Bajpai (Gandhi Nagar), Avtar Singh (Kalkaji), Kailash Gahlot (Najafgarh) — who is also a minister — Madan Lal (Kasturba Nagar), Manoj Kumar (Kondli), Naresh Yadav (Mehrauli), Nitin Tyagi (Laxmi Nagar), Praveen Kumar (Jangpura).

The others are Rajesh Gupta (Wazirpur), Rajesh Rishi (Janakpuri), Sanjeev Jha (Burari), Sarita Singh (Rohtas Nagar), Som Dutt (Sadar Bazar), Sharad Kumar (Narela), Shiv Charan Goel (Moti Nagar), Sukhbir Singh (Mundka), Vijendar Garg (Rajinder Nagar) and Jarnail Singh (Tilak Nagar).

PTI