President Ram Nath Kovind accepted the Election Commission’s (EC) recommendation to disqualify 20 MLAs of Delhi’s ruling Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) for holding offices of profit on Sunday.
A notification issued by the law ministry quoted the president as saying that in the light of the opinion expressed by the EC, the 20 members of the Delhi legislative assembly have been disqualified.
The AAP MLAs were appointed parliamentary secretaries and their appointment was described as them holding offices of profit by a petitioner.
In a blow to the AAP, the EC had on Friday asked the President to disqualify its 20 MLAs.
“…Having considered the matter in the light of the opinion expressed by the Election Commission, I, Ram Nath Kovind, president of India, in exercise of the powers…do here hold that the aforesaid 20 members of the Delhi legislative assembly stand disqualified from being members of the said assembly,” the notification said.
Gopal Rai, Rural Development Minister of Delhi, said, “We had hoped to go to the President asking him to give us a chance to present ourselves. Now we received this news. AAP will knock the doors of HC and even SC if the need be.”
Congress’s Ajay Maken indirectly blamed the BJP for the incident.
“AAP has been helped by BJP & EC by delaying the decision for over 3 weeks. If decision would have come before 22nd Dec, these 20 MLAs would’ve been disqualified & couldn’t have voted for Rajya Sabha elections,” he said.
In the present case, the petition was made to disqualify 21 MLAs, but one had resigned a few months back.
The EC, however, said that the disqualification is sub-judice, and it will not comment on what recommendation has been given to the President.
A petition filed by lawyer Prashant Patel sought the disqualification of the MLAs on the grounds that they were holding an ‘office of profit’ as parliamentary secretaries.
In 2015, soon after AAP swept the Delhi elections, Kejriwal had appointed 21 legislators as parliamentary secretaries.
This disqualification will lead to by-polls in Delhi.
The ruling AAP has a massive majority in the Delhi Assembly with 67 out of 70 seats.
This disqualification will not meddle with AAP’s position in the assembly, but is definitely a serious setback for the party.
The MLAs’ pleas that the case against them be dropped were rejected by the EC in June 2017.