In a major jolt to the AAP, the Election Commission has ruled that it will continue hearing a plea against the party’s nearly two dozen MLAs for allegedly holding office of profit, despite the Delhi High Court setting aside their appointment as parliamentary secretaries.
The office of profit petition was filed against 21 AAP MLA. Later, proceedings were dropped against Jarnail Singh after he resigned as the Rajouri Garden MLA to contest Assembly polls in Punjab.
The EC order stated that the commission was of the “considered opinion” that the AAP MLAs did hold “de facto the office of parliamentary secretaries from March 13, 2015 to September 8, 2016”.
The order comes days before Chief Election Commissioner Nasim Zaidi demits office in July.
Reacting to the development, the AAP said it had all the “remedies available” to challenge the EC order. “The recent order of the EC should not be misinterpreted.
The Delhi High Court had declared the very order of appointment of the 21 parliamentary secretaries as null and void. Therefore, there is no question of hearing a petition for an office which never existed as per the high court.
“However, the EC has ruled that it would still hear the petition. All the remedies are available to challenge this order,” the party said in a statement.
The BJP and the Congress were quick to attack the AAP on the issue.
Delhi Congress chief Ajay Maken claimed that the rejection of the plea by the EC made it clear that the MLAs were liable to be prosecuted for the “perks and benefits they received illegally” and dared the AAP to face the electorate.
The BJP hoped that the EC would pronounce its final verdict on the issue very soon because the case had been pending for 14 months.
“If the EC today disqualifies the MLAs and orders fresh polls in these constituencies, we will win all the seats,” said Delhi BJP chief Manoj Tiwari.
Election Commissioner O P Rawat, who recused himself from the case after Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had questioned his impartiality, has not signed on the order.
The petitioner, Prashant Patel, maintained that the high court order should have no bearing on the case being heard by the EC as the MLAs were enjoying the fruits of that office till their appointment was set aside by the high court.
On September 8, the high court had set aside the appointment of the 21 AAP MLAs as parliamentary secretaries.
The court had said the order to appoint them as parliamentary secretaries was given without the concurrence of the Lieutenant Governor.
A bench of Chief Justice G Rohini and Justice Sangita Dhingra Sehgal had set aside the March 13, 2015 government order after the counsel appearing for the Delhi government “conceded” that it was issued without taking concurrence or views of the LG.
The poll panel had heard the case on December 16 last before it got busy with Assembly elections in five states.
On March 27, the commission had reserved its order on the issue.