While the Election Commission (EC) has ruled that it would continue hearing a plea against AAP’s 21 MLAs for allegedly holding an “office-of-profit”, the party is training itself in basic Latin: in particular the difference — legal and literal — between ‘de facto’ and ‘de jure’, which lies at the core of AAP’s defence in the issue.
The order, dated June 23, said the Commission was of the “considered opinion” that AAP MLAs held the office of parliamentary secretaries from March 13, 2015, to September 8, 2016, as “de facto”. AAP maintained that the entire issue boiled down to whether the MLAs held the offices ‘de facto’ (in reality) or whether the offices were held ‘de jure’ (by right or legally).
Although the notice from the EC arrived on Saturday morning, word had reached the party beforehand about the notice. As an AAP leader put it, “We are not sure why it didn’t come on Friday, considering it has been dated on that day. But reporters started calling, workers got calls and the opposition also knew. So, we were expecting it and that allowed us time to frame a response.”
A government spokesperson classified the EC’s conclusions as “amusing”, and claimed on Twitter that the term “de facto office” was being misinterpreted.
AAP workers scrambled to understand the legal and technical differences between ‘de facto’ and ‘de jure’. An AAP leader explained: “The entire thing boils down to the phrase ‘de facto’ — what is real, while ‘de jure’ essentially refers to practices, which are legally tenable. Now, how can a position not legally exist and simultaneously be an office of profit?”
The theme of ‘misinterpretation’ continued. A Delhi government spokesperson said the EC order “should not be misinterpreted”, and said the Delhi HC “had declared the very order of appointment of 21 parliamentary secretaries as null and void. Therefore there is no question of hearing a petition for office, which never existed as per Delhi High Court. However, the EC has ordered it will still hear the petition”. “All remedies are available to challenge this order of EC,” he added.
DPCC president Ajay Maken sought the resignation of all 21 AAP MLAs on moral grounds. “During the course of the hearing, the AAP MLAs have filed 5 formal applications for adjournment of the matter on some pretext or the other, solely to delay the proceedings.”
Earlier, the Delhi HC had set aside the appointment of the MLAs as parliamentary secretaries, maintaining that the order appointing them was given without the concurrence of the Lieutenant Governor of Delhi.
CEC Nasim Zaidi’s term will end in July. The petition was filed against 21 AAP MLAs, while proceedings were dropped against Jarnail Singh, who quit as Rajouri Garden MLA to contest Punjab Assembly polls.