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EC gives opinion to disqualify 20 Delhi AAP MLAs for holding office of profit, HC refuses relief to AAP

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(G.N.S) Dt. 19

New Delhi

– High Court refuses relief to AAP in office-of-profit case

– Congress demands Kejriwal’s resignation

The Election Commission gave its opinion to the president on a complaint by the Congress filed in June 2016 seeking disqualification of the MLAs. The Commission, however, refused to comment on the issue, stating that the matter was sub judice. As and when the President issues orders for the disqualification of these legislators, the ECI will have to conduct by-polls for their respective seats. Currently, 65 of the 70 seats in the Delhi Assembly are held by Aam Aadmi Party members.

The Congress application said 21 AAP MLAs, including Jarnail Singh (Rajouri Garden) who resigned to contest Punjab Assembly polls last year, had been appointed parliamentary secretaries to Ministers in the Delhi government.

Under the Constitution, the president is bound to act in accordance with the poll panel’s recommendation. Seven MLAs from the AAP have moved Delhi High Court against the EC’s recommendation. Last June, the ECI ruled that the 20 MLAs de facto held the office of parliamentary secretaries. In September 2016, the Delhi High Court set aside the AAP government’s order appointing 21 MLAs as parliamentary secretaries in March 2015 as it lacked the approval of the Lieutenant Governor.

There was no official word from the poll panel. But sources said the Commission’s recommendation had been sent to President Ram Nath Kovind. Lawyer Prashant Patel petitioned then President Pranab Mukherjee seeking their disqualification. The petition was forwarded to the ECI for its recommendation.

Subsequently, the Commission started a hearing on the issue and sought responses from the MLAs, who refuted the charges, stating that they did not draw any pecuniary benefits from their posts. They also cited the Delhi High Court directive stating that their appointments had been set aside.

Praveen Kumar: Kumar, according to media reporter, is a social worker and worked as an officer on special duty to Manish Sisodia. He won from the Jangpura constituency. He was appointed parliamentary secretary to the minister of education by Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal.

Sharad Kumar Chauhan: Sharad Kumar is the parliamentary secretary to the minister of revenue. He switched from Bahujan Samaj party to AAP to contest the Delhi elections and became an MLA from the Narela constituency. He had contested the 2008 Assembly election and had narrowly lost from Narela with a margin of 800 votes.

Adarsh Shastri: Grandson of former prime minister Lal Bahadur Shastri, Adarsh joined the AAP in 2013 after leaving his job as the sales head in Apple Inc, according to India Today. He was appointed the parliamentary secretary to the minister of information and technology. He is an MLA from Dwarka. He has spent over 17 years in the corporate sector and has been involved in various social and economic organisations and charitable trusts, according to media.

Madan Lal: Madan Lal was appointed as parliamentary secretary to the minister of vigilance. He is an MLA from Kasturba Nagar and is the founding president of Saket Court Bar Association. According to DNA, he has done his MA LLB from MMH College, Ghaziabad, Meerut University. He had once alleged that the BJP offered him a bribe to split AAP.

Shiv Charan Goel: Shiv Charan Goel is the parliamentary secretary to the minister of finance. He is an MLA from Moti Nagar. According to The Indian Express report, he was an active participant in the Jan Lokpal andolan and provided support to orgnisations working for social welfare. His name recently cropped up in the news when Kapil Mishra alleged that AAP had received “crores of rupees” from “shell companies” run by people close to Kejriwal, including Shiv Charan Goel.

Sanjeev Jha: He is an MLA from Burari and was appointed the parliamentary secretary to the minister of transport. He was detained last year by the Delhi Police for trying to “break public peace” after he tried to hold a counter hunger strike outside Kapil Mishra’s house.

Sarita Singh: Sarita Singh is an AAP MLA from Rohtas Nagar and was appointed as a parliamentary secretary to the minister of employment. She made news recently for allegedly misbehaving with a police officer on duty. The MLA has also been accused of taking money in the name of providing government job. The legislator has denied both charges.

Naresh Yadav: Naresh Yadav was appointed the parliamentary secretary to the minister of labour. Yadav, an advocate, is an MLA from Mehrauli. His name also appeared with Shiv Charan Goel in allegations of running shell companies for Kejriwal. He was also arrested and later granted bail in a case regarding the alleged desecration of a Quran.

Rajesh Gupta: Rajesh Gupta is an MLA from Wazirpur and was appointed the parliamentary secretary to the minister of health. He was given the ticket from Wazirpur after the AAP dropped Suresh Bhardwaj as its candidate for hiding some facts, reported The Indian Express. He is a businessman by profession.

Rajesh Rishi: He was appointed as a parliamentary secretary to the minister of health and is an MLA from Janakpuri. He is a sweet vendor by profession. Rishi recently advised Kejriwal of staying away from “sycophants”. Being a party volunteer, he has expressed his displeasure over with the way some leaders around the chief minister have “monopolised” the party’s functioning, reported Hindustan Times.

Anil Kumar Bajpai: He was appointed the parliamentary secretary to the minister of health and is an MLA from Gandhi Nagar. He was previously with Congress and joined AAP in 2013. He is the vice-president of the Confederation of the Residents’ Welfare Association (RWA) of the NCR and president of the Gandhi Nagar RWA, according to The Indian Express.

Som Dutt: He is the parliamentary secretary to the minister of industries and is an MLA from Sadar Bazar. He was granted bail in October last year in a case filed against him for allegedly filing false information about the dependency of his parents in affidavits in 2013 and 2015 Delhi Assembly polls.

Avtar Singh Kalka: Avtar Singh Kalka, an MLA from Kalkaji, was appointed as parliamentary secretary to minister of Gurudwara elections. The Panthak Seva Dal elected him as its convener in 2016, replacing founder convenor Sarabjot Singh Grover, reported The Indian Express.

Vijender Garg Vijay: He was appointed the parliamentary secretary to the minister of PWD and is an MLA from Rajender Nagar. He is a BCom graduate of Delhi University.

Jarnail Singh: He was appointed the parliamentary secretary to the minister of development and is an MLA from Tilaknagar.

Kailash Gahlot: Gahlot was appointed as a parliamentary secretary to the minister of law and is an MLA from Najafgarh. In the Delhi government Cabinet reshuffle, Gahlot was handed over responsibilities of transport and law, according to The Financial Express.

Alka Lamba: An MLA from Chandni Chowk, she was appointed as parliamentary secretary to the minister of tourism. She was removed as the party spokesperson after she “deviated from party line” while making a statement on Gopal Rai being relieved of charge as transport minister.

Manoj Kumar: He was appointed as parliamentary secretary to the minister of food and civil supplies and is an MLA from Kondli. He has been accused of domestic abuse and faces charges of cheating and land grabbing for which he was arrested in July 2015. He was later released on bail, according to The Indian Express.

Nitin Tyagi: He was appointed the parliamentary secretary to the minister of women and child and social welfare. An MLA from Laxmi Nagar, he was involved in a face off with another legislator. Tyagi moved a breach of privilege motion against AAP dissident Pankaj Pushkar, who had filed a police complaint against the former alleging threat to life, reported The Asian Age.

Sukhvir Singh: An MLA from Mundka, he was appointed as parliamentary secretary to the minister of languages and welfare of SC/ST/OBC. He is a retired government servant.

“Everywhere in the world if any inquiry is being conducted, the accused are given a chance to present their case. But the ECI has till date not allowed our MLAs to explain themselves,” said Saurabh Bharadwaj, AAP MLA from Greater Kailash.

“The ECI seems to be working at the behest of the BJP government. It has lost all credibility. This is a witch-hunt against our MLAs,” he added.

Congress demands Kejriwal’s resignation

“The ECI has given them a lot of opportunities, heard many petitions. There is no way that these 20 MLAs can escape disqualification. Their appointment letters said they would get offices, staff and cars,” said Delhi Pradesh Congress Committee president Ajay Maken.

The Congress had filed a petition with the ECI in June 2016 seeking the disqualification of 21 AAP MLAs for holding an office of profit. Since then, one of the MLAs, Jarnail Singh of Rajouri Garden constituency, resigned to contest the Punjab Assembly elections.

Demanding the resignation of Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal , Mr. Maken said the Congress would launch a campaign against the AAP government.

Timeline of the ‘Office of Profit’ case:

March 2015: Soon after sweeping the Delhi elections, the AAP government passed an amendment to the Delhi Members of Legislative Assembly (Removal of Disqualification) Act, 1997 to exempt the post of parliamentary secretary from the definition of office of profit with retrospective effect.

On March 13, AAP government passed an order appointing the 21 AAP legislators as parliamentary secretaries, saying they won’t take remuneration and hence didn’t fall under the office of profit regulations.

June 2016: Congress moved the Election Commission to seek disqualification of 21 legislators who also held the parliamentary secretary post. Leading the Congress delegation, Delhi party chief Ajay Maken said that it has been clearly stated in the NCT of Delhi Act, 1991 that if any Member of Legislative Assembly, other than the ministers, holds any office of profit in Delhi government, the Member of Legislative Assembly concerned would invite disqualification of the membership of the Assembly.

September 2016: The Delhi High Court quashed the AAP government’s order appointing 21 legislators as parliamentary secretaries since it lacked the approval of the Lieutenant Governor (LG), the administrative head of Delhi.

January 2017: Jarnail Singh, AAP legislator from Rajouri Garden resigned to fight elections in Punjab, leaving 20 legislators on the post of parliament secretary.

June 2017: The Election Commission rejected pleas of the 20 legislators to drop the ‘office of profit’ case against them.

October 2017: The Election Commission summoned AAP legislators for an explanation.

January 2018: The Election Commission recommends disqualification of 20 AAP legislators in the ‘office of profit’ case.

High Court refuses relief to AAP in office-of-profit case

The Delhi High Court on Friday refused to grant interim relief to the Aam Aadmi Party, which approached it soon after the Election Commission recommended disqualifying 20 of the party’s MLAs in the Delhi Assembly for holding offices of profit while being legislators. The court will hear the matter again on Monday.

While the poll panel has refused to comment on its recommendations, AAP leaders reacted angrily soon after the reports emerged on Friday. Party leaders said the Election Commission had never “touched this low”.

Party leader Saurabh Bharadwaj said Chief Election Commissioner Achal Kumar Jyoti had made the recommendations without asking the party for an explanation, The Indian Express reported. “No evidence, no argument of AAP was neither asked nor taken into consideration before the recommendations were sent to the president,” Bharadwaj said.

Another AAP leader, Ashutosh, took to Twitter to vent his anger. “The Election Commission should not be the letter box of the PMO,” he tweeted. “But that is the reality today.”

Both the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Congress said they welcomed the Election Commission’s recommendation.

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