The Election Commission has told the Delhi High Court that AAP MLAs’ plea seeking quashing of their disqualification from the Delhi Assembly for holding office of profit was “not maintainable” and is liable to be “dismissed”. A bench of Justices Sanjiv Khanna and Chander Shekhar was further told that the AAP MLAs have challenged the Election Commission’s recommendation, which is non-existent once President Ram Nath Kovind has taken a decision on it. The poll panel said that the MLAs have not challenged the President’s January 20 decision, by which its recommendation was accepted. The commission was responding to the MLAs plea seeking quashing of the decision to disqualify them from the Delhi Legislative Assembly. Earlier, the commission had told the court that it would rely upon the opinion it gave to the President to disqualify the 20 MLAs who were appointed as Parliamentary Secretaries. The high court had on January 24 refused to stay the Centre’s notification disqualifying the MLAs, but restrained the EC from taking any “precipitate measures” such as announcing dates for by-polls. Later on January 30, the court extended till February 7 the interim order restraining the EC from issuing any notification announcing by-elections to fill the vacancies of the 20 assembly seats whose legislators had been disqualified.
In its affidavit, the commission also opposed the MLAs’ claim that they were never afforded a hearing before the poll panel leading to the violation of the principle of natural justice. “The ECI afforded the MLAs ample opportunity to come and participate in several hearings, which clearly demonstrates and proves that the principles of natural justice have been duly complied with and adhered to. However, it’s a matter of fact that the MLAs herein gave only illusory responses,” the commission said. The EC said that it was not bound to call the 20 MLAs for oral hearing before recommending their disqualifications to the President.
The high court had on January 29 transferred the appeal filed by 20 AAP MLAs against their disqualifications by the President on the recommendations of the Election Commission to a division bench. The division bench had asked the EC to state the facts behind its decision to disqualify the MLAs by filing an affidavit. The EC had recommended the disqualifications of 20 AAP MLAs on January 19. The President had later approved their disqualifications prompting at least eight of them to approach the high court.
The 20 disqualified 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).