The Election Commission on Thursday reserved its order on whether to make the Congress, the BJP and the Delhi government parties to a petition on ‘Office of Profit’ seeking disqualification of 21 Aam Aadmi Party legislators for holding the post of parliamentary secretaries.
At Thursday’s meeting, Prashant Patel, who had petitioned before the Commission seeking disqualification of the MLAs, opposed the plea of Congress and BJP of becoming a party to the case saying “they wanted to politicise the issue”.
The Delhi government too opposed the plea of intervention by the BJP and the Congress. Rakesh Mehra, representing the Delhi government, said it should be made “impleader” as the AAP dispensation will have a direct impact on the decision by the EC in the matter.
“We want to implead and do not want intervention as we made them parliamentary secretary and we possess all the documents. The Commission has sent a questionnaire as we are the necessary party and not to Congress and the BJP. Any decision will have direct and indirect impact on the government,” Mehra said.
Senior advocate and former External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid, who is representing Congress, said their plea of intervention was also opposed by the 21 AAP MLAs.
“We feel in the public interest, the plea should be allowed. Our plea was opposed by the MLAs. The judgment on this is reserved,” he told reporters.
The BJP in its response to the Delhi government and Patel’s argument said this involved public money and they can intervene into the matter.
“We told the Election Commission that the MLAs should face criminal prosecution because the 21 MLAs filed affidavits with false information and tried misleading it.
“The MLAs said that they haven’t received any office, but RTI states that they have been given offices, furniture and vehicles under the direction of Delhi government. The EC has reserved the order and has said they will inform us about the next date accordingly,” Vivek Garg, representing BJP, said.
Following the petition, EC had issued notices to the AAP MLAs last month.
In their response, the MLAs said there was no “pecuniary benefit” associated with the post and it comes without any remuneration or power. They had also sought personal hearing before the poll panel in their reply.
The AAP government had appointed 21 parliamentary secretaries to assist its ministers. Subsequently, the city government sought to amend the Delhi Members of Legislative Assembly (Removal of Disqualification) Act, 1997, so as to exempt parliamentary secretaries from disqualification provisions in ‘office of profit’ cases.
However, the President refused to give his assent to the Bill.
Those whose membership could be in danger include Alka Lamba, Adarsh Shastri, and Jarnail Singh.
As parliamentary secretaries, these MLAs are not entitled entitled to any additional salary, but they “may use government transport for official purposes and office space in the minister’s office will be provided to them to facilitate their work.”
AAP has denied the allegations that its 21 MLAs enjoyed any government benefits.
Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal had reacted strongly to the news that President Mukherjee had withheld his government’s dual office bill.
He took to Twitter to say, “(Narendra) Modi ji doesn’t respect democracy. He’s scared of Aam Aadmi Party. No MLA received a single paisa. Neither did they get any car, bunglow. They got nothing. All MLAs were working for free. Modi ji is asking all of them to sit at home. According to him, no one should work.
“One MLA was assigned for in electricity department, other was given role in Water dept. One was on hospital duty, other had schools duty. Modi ji is saying, ‘Neither will I work not let anyone else work’.”