In a major setback to Arvind Kejriwal-led Aam Aadmi Party, Election Commission of India on Friday recommended disqualification of its 20 MLAs for holding ‘profit for office’.
In its opinion which was sent to President of India Ram Nath Kovind, the poll panel suggested that the MLAs were “unconstitutionally” appointed as parliamentary secretaries to various Delhi ministers, therefore they are liable for disqualification.
Currently, AAP has 66 seats in Delhi Assembly and following the disqualification, the party will be reduced to 46 seats if the President seals the disqualification.
The controversy over appointment of 21 MLAs began after the then President Pranab Mukherjee refused to sign the Delhi government’s dual office bill. According to the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi Act, 1991, Delhi can have one parliamentary secretary, attached to the office of Chief Minister.
However in March 2015, Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal passed an order to appoint 21 MLAs as parliamentary secretaries for “smooth functioning of the Delhi government”.
The Congress and BJP criticised the appointment of the parliamentary secretaries, but the AAP clarified that none of the appointees will receive monetary benefits from the post nor office space or cars.
It was alleged by the Opposition that the appointment of the MLAs “amounts to holding office of profit”.
In 2016, the Delhi High Court set aside the appointments of the 21 MLAs, stating that the appointment did lack the approval of the then Delhi Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung.
In June 2017, the EC rejected the MLAs pleas to drop the “office of profit” case against them.
On 19 January 2018, the Election Commission recommended disqualification of the said MLAs.