The Election Commission (EC) will continue hearing the office-of-profit case against 21 AAP MLAs, despite the Delhi High Court setting aside their appointment last year, the poll panel ruled on Saturday. The Commission’s decision was in response to AAP’s plea that the office-of-profit case is not “maintainable” after the High Court set aside the appointment of 21 AAP MLAs as parliamentary secretaries and, hence, the question of profiting from such office does not arise.
However, the poll panel concluded that the AAP legislators had held that the office of parliamentary secretaries from the date of their appointment, March 13, 2015, to the date of setting aside of their appointment by the HC on September 8, 2016, and, therefore, the party’s interpretation that its MLAs did not hold any office is “not legally tenable”.
The term ‘office-of-profit’ has been defined in the Constitution, which prohibits MPs and MLAs from accepting government positions that carry some financial remuneration or any other benefit such as office space or even a car.
Any violation of this provision attracts disqualification of the legislator. The aim of this provision is to preserve the independence of the legislature by keeping its members away from any temptation from the executive.
The complaint currently being heard by the EC demands disqualification of 21 AAP MLAs on the ground that they were unconstitutionally appointed as parliamentary secretaries to assist various ministers of the Delhi government.
EC’s hearing so far has been limited to whether the disqualification plea should be set aside after the HC declared the appointments illegal. The order on this preliminary question comes less than two weeks before Chief Election Commissioner Nasim Zaidi retires. Election commissioner O P Rawat, who recused himself from hearing all AAP-related matters after Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal questioned his impartiality in a media interview in April, has not signed the order.