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Will President Kovind sit over EC’s recommendation on AAP MLAs?
The Election Commission sends its recommendation to disqualify 20 MLAs to the President because Pranab Mukherjee had forwarded the petition. Will President Kovind sit over it or unseat the MLAs ?
Barely two days before the Chief Election Commissioner Achal Kumar Joti’s term ends on Monday, the Election Commission on Friday recommended the disqualification of 20 AAP MLAs for holding office of profit as Parliamentary Secretaries. The Delhi High Court had earlier declared the appointments null and void and Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) had argued that the Election Commission could not possibly rule on posts which no longer existed following the high court ruling.
There is no immediate threat to the AAP Government in Delhi with AAP, which had won 67 seats in the 70-member Assembly, still left with 45 MLAs in a House whose strength is now reduced to 50.
The disqualification, however, will necessitate a ‘mini election’ in Delhi with elections held to elect MLAs in the 20 constituencies.
While the Election Commission has forwarded its recommendation to disqualify the MLAs to the President, it is not clear if AAP can still choose to appeal against the ruling.
As many as 21 MLAs were appointed Parliamentary Secretaries in March, 2015. One of them, Jarnail Singh, had resigned to contest elections in Punjab.
While the AAP Government tried to shield the MLAs by excluding them from the ambit of ‘office of profit’ laws, the then President Pranab Mukherjee refused to give his assent and referred a private petition seeking disqualification of the MLAs to the Election Commission. Delhi High Court struck down the posts of Parliamentary Secretary in September, 2015.
After this, the 21 MLAs petitioned the Election Commission that it shouldn’t entertain the office of profit case against them because the Delhi High Court had already set aside their appointment as parliamentary secretaries.
A parliamentary secretary assists a minister, and the office comes with perks as well as a measure of political influence. Often MLAs who can’t be accommodated in the government are appointed to the post.