It’s judgement day for Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Admi Party (AAP) with the Delhi High Court likely to pronounce its verdict on a plea challenging the disqualification of 20 AAP MLAs for allegedly holding offices of profit. The plea was filed by the accused legislators following their disqualification by the Election Commission for holding the post of parliamentary secretaries as MLAs. A bench of justices Sanjiv Khanna and Chander Shekhar will pronounce the verdict which has been pending since February 28.
What is the case?
The MLAs are accused of holding offices of profit, as they were appointed parliamentary secretaries to ministers in the Delhi government in March 2015. This was soon after they were elected to the Delhi Assembly. During the arguments, the MLAs had told the court that EC’s order disqualifying them for allegedly holding office-of-profit was passed in “complete violation of natural justice” as they were not given an opportunity to explain their stand before the poll panel.
What happened so far?
In September 2016, the Delhi High Court had ruled against their appointment as parliamentary secretaries. The Delhi high court had on January 24 declined to stay the Narendra Modi government’s notification disqualifying them, but had restrained the poll panel from taking any “precipitate measures” such as announcing dates for by-polls to fill the vacancies.
The Election Commission had on January 19 recommended the disqualification of 20 AAP MLAs. President Ram Nath Kovind gave his assent to the EC’s recommendation on January 20. The Delhi High Court bench had on February 28 reserved the judgement after the legislators, Election Commission of India (EC) and other parties had concluded their arguments.
Who are 20 MLAs?
The AAP MLAs who had won in 2015 as AAP had got historic mandate in the national capital. The MLAs, who are facing disqualification, are Adarsh Shastri, Alka Lamba, Rajesh Gupta, Transport Minister Kailash Gahlot, Sanjeev Jha, Praveen Kumar, Vijendra Garg, Madan Lal, Sharad Kumar, Nitin Tyagi, Jarnail Singh, Shiv Charan Goyal, Naresh Yadav, Sarita Singh, Manoj Kumar, Anil Kumar, Som Dutt, Rajesh Rishi, Avtar Singh and Sukhvir Singh Dala. Notably, Jarnail Singh had quit his Rajouri Garden constituency to contest Punjab Polls in 2017.
What will happen if they are disqualified?
If the Delhi High Court verdict goes against them, their disqualification will come into effect. Once that happens, polling in these 20 assembly seats will be held within the next six months.
Notably, the Delhi High Court has sought the central government’s response in another plea filed by BJP MLAs seeking removal of AAP legislator Kailash Gahlot, who was disqualified for holding an office of profit as the city’s transport minister.