In a huge setback to the Arvind Kejriwal and his party, the Election Commission (EC) disqualified 20 Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) MLAs today for holding ‘office of profit’. The recommendation has been sent to the President by the poll commission. If President clears the recommendation, then it means that AAP’s strength in Delhi Assembly will diminish to 46 from the existing 66.
The controversy over the “office of profit” took place following a 30-year-old lawyer Prashant Patel filed an application in 2015 to the President’s office, pointing out the appointment of AAP MLAs as parliamentary secretaries. The Congress party had also filed a petition in Election Commission in 2016 to seek disqualification of 21 AAP legislators positioned on this application. Later, the proceedings were released against on MLA Jarnail Singh following he resigned as the Rajouri Garden MLA to fight the Punjab Assembly polls in February 2017. In March 2015, Arvind Kejriwal had appointed an MLA and his government passed an amendment to the Delhi Members of Legislative Assembly (Removal of Disqualification) Act, 1997, in June 2015 to immune the post of parliamentary secretary from the description of office of profit with reviewing effect.
The Kejriwal’s party had argued that this post did not qualify as an office of profit as there is no financial benefit being involved in it. The party’s efforts got a setback when President Pranab Mukherjee declined support to the proposed Amendment in June 2016 and the Delhi High Court set sidewise the order appointing MLAs as parliamentary secretaries. Commenting on the matter, the opposition parties Congress and BJP have demanded the direct resignation of Arvind Kejriwal as CM of Delhi on moral ground. “This must be the first ever recommendation in EC history where a recommendation has been sent without even hearing the main matter on merits,” the AAP said.