Delhi HC sets aside disqualification of 20 AAP MLAs

Representational image Tehelka archives

Representational image Tehelka archives

The MLAs were arraigned for holding offices of profit.

The President made a representation to the poll panel, which then gave it opinion to disqualify them.

The disqualified lawmakers moved the High Court last month contending that the poll panel notification was a "gross violation of natural justice because the Election Commission decided the matter in undue haste and without affording and giving any opportunity of fair hearing to the petitioners".

"Elected representatives of Delhi were illegally disqualified".

The disqualification had come about as even the Election Commission had said that they were illegally holding to the post.

The AAP led Delhi Government issued an order on 13 March 2015 to appoint 21 MLAs (one resigned) as Parliamentary Secretaries to the Ministers of the Government of NCT of Delhi. "If the contention of the EC is to be accepted, it would result in an incongruous situation, as the reference remains unanswered and has to be decided", the court said. The AAP MLAs should not celebrate.

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Instead, what we saw was that the President received the 54-page, detailed order from the ECI when he was overseas on Presidential duties, and instead of pausing for a breath, he assented to it immediately, that too on a Sunday.

The court order in favour of AAP created history as this was the first time in two decades that an EC decision, to disqualify a legislator, has been struck down.

However, the High Court order puts the EC on the mat saying the opinion given to the President of India is "vitiated and bad in law for failure to comply with principles of natural justice".

The salaries of 20 Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) MLAs, who were disqualified for allegedly holding the office of profit, were stopped, Delhi Assembly Speaker Ram Niwas Goel said.

In September 2016, Delhi High Court had ruled against their appointment as parliamentary secretaries after hearing their pleas on a daily basis since February 7.

A single-judge bench of the high court had on 24 January directed the EC to maintain status quo on the disqualifications by withholding announcement of bypoll dates for the Delhi assembly seats that would fall vacant as a result.