Delhi HC sets aside disqualification of 20 AAP MLAs

New Delhi: The Delhi high court on Friday set aside the disqualification of 20 Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) MLAs for holding offices of profit as ‘parliamentary secretaries’ in the Delhi government, and sent the case back to the Election Commission (EC) for a fresh hearing.

A 19 January opinion by EC and the subsequent presidential order disqualifying the MLAs was quashed by a bench comprising justices Sanjiv Khanna and Chander Shekhar for failing to comply with the principles of natural justice.

“Order of remand is passed to EC to hear arguments and thereafter decide all important and seminal issue—what is meant by the expression ‘office of profit held under the government’ and re-examine the factual matrix to decide whether petitioners had incurred disqualification on appointment as parliamentary secretaries, without being influenced by the earlier order or observations on the said aspect in this order,” the judgment read.

The court quashed the disqualification order on the ground that EC had not given the MLAs an oral hearing and an opportunity to address arguments on their proposed disqualification.

AAP national convener and Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal welcomed the ruling.

“Truth has won… Delhi high court has given the people of Delhi justice…,” Kejriwal said on Twitter. He later met the 20 AAP MLAs.

“Unless we see a certified copy of the court order, we would not be able to comment on it,” chief election commissioner O.P. Rawat said.

Eight of the 20 disqualified AAP MLAs had moved the high court on 23 January.

The disqualified MLAs are—Alka Lamba, Adarsh Shastri, Sanjeev Jha, Rajesh Gupta, Kailash Gahlot, Vijendra Garg, Praveen Kumar, Sharad Kumar, Madan Lal Khufiya, Shiv Charan Goyal, Sarita Singh, Naresh Yadav, Rajesh Rishi, Anil Kumar, Som Dutt, Avtar Singh, Sukhvir Singh Dala, Manoj Kumar, Nitin Tyagi and Jarnail Singh.

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.

After the case was transferred to a two-judge bench on 29 January, it was heard on a day-to-day basis until the court reserved its judgement on 28 February.

In March 2015, the Delhi government had appointed 21 MLAs as parliamentary secretaries. Since then, one MLA resigned from the assembly. The appointments were made to assist cabinet ministers and also include more MLAs in governance work. livemint

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