Office of Profit: Setback for 21 AAP MLAs as EC Won’t Drop Case

Ashutosh told The Quint that AAP will challenge the EC’s authority to take a decision in the case in the high court.

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 The Delhi High Court had set aside the appointment of 21 AAP MLAs as parliamentary secretaries. (Photo: Reuters)

In a major jolt to the Aam Aadmi Party (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 MLAs. 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 13 March 2015 to 8 September 2016".

The party will soon challenge the EC's authority to take a decision in this case in the high court, AAP leader Ashutosh told The Quint.

As of now the argument in the EC was only whether it has the right to hear the disqualification case against our MLAs or not. Today’s order is no doubt a setback as the EC can now start hearing the case. But we will challenge this in the high court.

The order comes days before Chief Election Commissioner Nasim Zaidi demits office in July. 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 8 September, 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 13 March 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 16 December last before it got busy with Assembly elections in five states. On March 27, the commission had reserved its order on the issue.

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