Office of profit: EC rejects AAP's plea

In a major jolt to the AAP, the Election Commission has ruled that it will continue hearing a plea against the party's almost two dozen MLAs for allegedly holding office of profit, despite the Delhi High Court setting aside their appointment as parliamentary secretaries.

The EC order said that the commission was of the "considered opinion that the AAP legislators did hold de facto the office of parliamentary secretaries from March 13, 2015 to September 8, 2016".

The order has huge political ramifications for the Kejriwal government, as it spells no respite for the 20 MLAs who must have to counter their cases before the EC against Delhi lawyer Prashant Patel's petition seeking their disqualification for holding office of profit as parliamentary secretaries.

However, as given in the report, the Delhi High Court had earlier dropped the order citing that appointment of 21 MLAs as parliamentary secretaries was passed without the Lieutenant Governor's concurrence. High Court of Delhi had declared very Order of appointment of 21 Parliamentary Secretaries as null and void.

"In its interim order, the EC analysed AAP MLAs' arguments and rejected their pleas, finding that charges of misuse of office of profit have been proved", Tiwari said. "There is no question of hearing a petition for office [of profit] which never existed according to the High Court", the party's statement said.

The proceedings against one AAP MLA Jarnail Singh was dropped as he resigned as the Rajori Garden MLA earlier this year to contest Punjab assembly election. The AAP said it respects the ruling and hinted that the party might challenge it in court.

The BJP and the Congress were quick to attack the AAP on the issue.

AAP's spokesperson Saurabh Bharadwaj on Saturday said the party respects the orders of the high court as well as the Election Commission.

"These MLAs now have no moral or legal right to continue as legislators", he said. However, President Pranab Mukherjee refused to give his assent to the bill.

In March 2015, the lawmakers were appointed parliamentary secretaries by the AAP-led Delhi government. Election Commissioner Om Prakash Rawat did not sign the order since he had recused himself from the case when accused of impartiality.

  • Joanne Flowers