In a possible setback to Kejriwal and the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), the Election Commission of India has decided to continue hearing the case against 20 AAP MLAs for allegedly holding an office of profit. If found guilty of the same, the AAP MLAs stand to face possible disqualification.
The case in question is a petition which was filed by Advocate Prashant Patel with the President on 19th June 2015. It was reported that the AAP MLAs in question were appointed as Parliamentary Secretaries by the Delhi government, which was not allowed as per law as it was considered an office of profit.
Kejriwal government then tried to shield its MLAs from repercussions by passing a bill to exclude the post of Parliamentary Secretary from the office of profit list, which would have given them a legal sanctity. Unfortunately for him though it was rejected by the President.
Office of profit roughly comprises of any non-political position an elected representative holds for which he is earning a salary from the government. The benefits falling under the office of profit may not just be monetary as was detailed by Advocate Prashant Patel.
In his interview to OpIndia, Advocate Patel had stated that Office of Profit also constitutes those posts that involve some position, prestige or patronage. The AAP MLAs, by accepting the position of Parliament Secretary, had placed themselves in a better position as compared to other MLAs, and that was arguably in contravention of rules. The MLAs had held the post from March 13, 2015 to September 8, 2016.
Now in today’s order by the Election Commission, it has observed that the MLAs indeed held an Office of Profit. It has dismissed their plea to quash the proceedings against them:
EC has ordered that 21 MLAs did hold De facto the post of Parliamentary Secretary hence liable for Office of Profit & rejected their plea.
— Prashant Patel Umrao (@ippatel) June 24, 2017
Earlier in September 2016, the Delhi High Court had quashed the appointment of the MLAs as Parliament Secretaries as it lacked the approval of L-G. The MLAs had incidentally tried to interpret the order of the Delhi Hight Court to mean that they had never held any office of profit as the court found the appointment invalid, and asked the EC to stop the proceedings against them. The EC has now refused the same by stating that their interpretation was legally untenable.
Originally, 21 AAP MLAs were involved in the case but one of the MLAs, Jarnail Singh resigned from his Rajouri Garden seat to contest the Punjab elections. Incidentally Jarnail Singh ended up losing his deposit in Punjab and the resultant AAP candidate also lost his deposit in the Rajouri Garden by-poll.