New Delhi, March 23: In a huge relief for the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), the Delhi High Court on Friday set aside the Election Commission’s notification disqualifying 20 of its MLAs. The court ruled that the Election Commission should hear the plea of the MLAs again. “Truth has won. The high court has delivered justice. It is a victory of the people of Delhi,” Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal said reacting over the verdict. Also Read - 'Cases on Rise, But Delhi Under Control,' Says CM Kejriwal as COVID-19 Tally in Capital Crosses 13,000-mark
“MLAs were not given a chance to put their point, so now the court has given them a chance to do that. The EC will hear their plea again,” AAP MLA Saurabh Bhardwaj told reporters. Also Read - Mayawati, Akhilesh Yadav, Kejriwal to Skip Sonia Gandhi's Mega Opposition Meet on Friday: Here's Why
A division bench of Justice Sanjiv Khanna and Justice Chander Shekhar said the January 19 poll panel recommendation given to the President “is vitiated and bad in law for failure to comply with principles of natural justice”. It said there was a “violation of natural justice and no oral hearing was given to the AAP MLAs before disqualifying them as legislators”. Also Read - After Issuing Guidelines, Delhi Govt Allows Industrial Firms to Function in Staggered Business Hours
The MLAs who were disqualified by the EC included: 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.
The Election Commission had on January 19 recommended to President Ram Nath Kovind that the 20 MLAs were liable for disqualification for holding offices of profit between March 13, 2015, and September 8, 2016. (Also Read: Disqualification of 20 AAP MLAs is BJP’s ‘Dirty Politics’, Says Manish Sisodia in Open Letter to Delhiites)
AAP MLAs were appointed parliamentary secretaries and this was described by petitioner Prashant Patel as them holding offices of profit.
Giving its opinion to the president on the issue, the EC had said the MLAs, by occupying the post of parliamentary secretaries had held offices of profit, and were liable to be disqualified as legislators.
Parliamentary Secretaries assist ministers with their work. AAP insisted that despite holding the office these MLAs did not take any salaries or perks. (Also Read: ‘Tughlaqshahi’ Order, Says Yashwant Sinha on President’s Decision to Disqualify 20 AAP MLAs)
In its opinion to the President, the EC had said that, “Whether or not the individual Parliamentary Secretaries had actually derived the benefits or participated in executive functions of the government is of no relevance” as the Supreme Court in the Jaya Bachchan case had laid down that if the post falls under office of profit, the disqualification is imminent.
The AAP had later approached the Delhi High Court seeking a stay on EC’s recommendation.