Why 20 AAP MLAs are facing disqualification (and what political parties are saying about it)

DailyBiteJan 19, 2018 | 21:18

Why 20 AAP MLAs are facing disqualification (and what political parties are saying about it)

The Aam Aadmi Party has decided to approach the Delhi High Court against the EC's recommendation.

In a major jolt to the Aam Aadmi Party, the Election Commission has recommended the disqualification of 20 of its MLAs in the Delhi Assembly, finding them guilty of holding “offices of profit”.

The MLAs had been appointed as parliamentary secretaries to the six ministers in the Delhi cabinet, a post that entails some “profit”. The Constitution prohibits Members of Parliament and MLAs from holding any government position that has any kind of benefit – financial remuneration, office space, official vehicle, et al – attached with it.  


The EC’s recommendation has set off a political storm, with the Aam Aadmi Party deciding to approach the Delhi High Court against it. The court has refused interim relief. While the BJP and the Congress have welcomed the recommendation, the AAP has said the decision was taken without hearing its MLAs out.

The party had repeatedly defended the appointment of its MLAs as parliamentary secretaries, claiming they were not receiving a salary for the role and hence it did not qualify as holding an “office of profit”.


After reports of the EC recommendation surfaced, Saurabh Bharadwaj, AAP spokesperson, said: “Whenever there is an investigation anywhere in the world, the accused is also given a chance to put their point across; the EC did not give any MLA such an opportunity.” 

“I want to ask if people from constituencies of these 21 MLAs have seen them utilising government facilities like car, house or salary. No hearing has been held before EC until now. In fact, we didn’t hear about the news from the EC, but news channels,” Bharadwaj added.

Nagendar Sharma, media advisor to chief minister Arvind Kejriwal, echoed Bharadwaj’s comments: “It is a recommendation made without hearing the arguments of MLAs on the false allegation of office of profit.” 


Bharadwaj further said: “Office of Profit is when someone benefits.  I want to ask do they (parliamentary secretaries) use official bunglow or car? None of them can be accused of earning any salary or official facility. I would like to know if any person living in the constituencies of the 20 MLAs who are alleged to have held the ‘Office of Profit’ had any knowledge about the MLAs owning a car, a house, property or any other privilege that was wrongfully enjoyed by these MLAs.”

West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee too spoke out in favour of the Aam Aadmi Party. 

The BJP welcomed the recommendation, saying it was an example of the fact that the country runs in accordance with the Constitution. The party’s Delhi chief Manoj Tiwari said: “Not following the Constitution and its spirit is the characteristic of AAP. The recommendation has shown a mirror to AAP.”

The party’s Vijay Jolly called the EC decision the "final nail in the coffin of the Delhi government."

He added, "This should be an eye-opener for the misgovernance of the Aam Aadmi Party in the capital. They have subverted the constitutional norms of the government in the capital and misused the official machinery appointing the Parliamentary Secretaries in total disregardance of the laid down norms, rules and regulation concerning the government. Election Commission verdict is final nail in the coffin of the Delhi government and also in the tall claims of AAP and its deliverance of the Justice to people of national capital."

The AAP, however, has accused the EC and its chief Achal Kumar Joti of being politically motivated.

The Congress, meanwhile, has said that Kejriwal had lost the right to continue as CM. Delhi Congress chief Ajay Maken told TV channels that his party would hold a protest march in front of the chief minister’s office to push for Kejriwal’s resignation.

What the controversy is about

The office of profit controversy has been simmering ever since the Aam Aadmi Party marched into the Delhi Assembly winning a massive 67 out of 70 seats. While the number of ministers that the Delhi Cabinet can have is capped at six, the AAP appointed 21 lawmakers as Parliament secretaries in March, 2015. One of the MLAs, Jarnail Singh, resigned in 2017 to contest the Punjab elections.

The AAP’s move was met with protests, with the Opposition saying such a large number of Parliament secretaries was unnecessary and the AAP was wasting public funds to appease some leaders by creating posts for them.

In June of that year, advocate Prashant Patel petitioned then President Pranab Mukherjee that the MLAs were holding "Office of Profit" and should be disqualified. The president sent the matter to the Election Commission.

To stem the controversy, the Delhi Legislative Assembly in the same month passed the Delhi Member of Legislative Assembly (Removal of Disqualification) (Amendment Bill), 2015 excluding parliamentary secretaries from "Office of Profit" with retrospective effect. President Mukherjee, however, refused to give his assent to the Bill.

In July 2016, the Election Commission held a hearing for the 21 MLAs, and in September, issued showcause notices to them. Meanwhile, in the same month, the Delhi HC, hearing a separate PIL filed by NGO Rashtriya Mukti Morcha, set aside the appointment of the parliamentary secretaries, after the AAP accepted that the decision had been taken without the Delhi lieutenant-general’s nod.

After this, the MLAs petitioned the EC, saying it shouldn’t entertain the office of profit case against them because the HC had set aside their appointment. In June 2017, the Election Commission rejected the MLAs' plea, and in October, issued a notice seeking explanation from them.

What happens if they are disqualified

Even if the 20 MLAs are disqualified, the AAP government faces no threat, as it will continue to enjoy a clear majority in the Delhi Assembly. However, the decision will necessitate so many by-polls as to make Delhi face a mini legislative Assembly election. Also, some of the MLAs facing disqualification, such as Alka Lamba, Adarsh Shastri and transport minister Kailash Gehlot, are among its most prominent faces.

A report in The Indian Express quoted an AAP leader as saying, “Gehlot is integral in the party’s expansion in the rural parts of Delhi, a former BJP bastion that AAP has managed to crack, particularly after the victory in Bawana where Gehlot played a key role and was projected as the village face being made a minister.” 

The 20 MLAs facing disqualification are: Naresh Yadav (Mehrauli),  Som Dutt (Sadar Bazar), Praveen Kumar (Jangpura), Nitin Tyagi (Laxmi Nagar), Adarsh Shastri (Dwarka), Sanjeev Jha (Burari), Jarnail Singh (Tilak Nagar) – the one who resigned was MLA of Rajouri Garden – Sukhvir Singh (Mundka), Madan Lal (Kasturba Nagar), Sarita Singh (Rohtas Nagar), Alka Lamba (Chandni Chowk), Rajesh Rishi (Janakpuri), Anil Kumar Bajpai (Gandhi Nagar) Manoj Kumar (Kondli), Kailash Gahlot (Najafgarh), Avtar Singh (Kalkaji), Vijendar Garg Vijay (Rajinder Nagar), Rajesh Gupta (Wazirpur), Sharad Kumar (Narela) and Shiv Charan Goel (Moti Nagar).

The disqualification will also come as a major blow to the morale of the party, already beleaguered by electoral defeats in several states.


Last updated: January 19, 2018 | 21:30
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