The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) wasn’t the only one raising questions about the Election Commission’s adverse opinion in the office-of-profit case on Friday. Former officials of the Commission, who spoke to The Indian Express on the condition of anonymity, said that the poll panel had decided the matter without holding any hearing on the merits of the complaint against the 20 MLAs.
A former Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) pointed to the Commission’s order of June 23, 2017, to support AAP’s argument.
“That order clearly states that the EC will continue hearing the office-of-profit case against the legislators even though the Delhi High Court had set aside their appointment as parliamentary secretaries. So what happened after that?”
The EC did not hold a single hearing on the case after its order of June 23, 2017. In fact, the order clearly states that “the Commission will intimate the next date of hearing to all the concerned parties in the present proceedings in due course”.
Nasim Zaidi, who was CEC in June 2017, did not wish to say anything on Friday’s development when The Indian Express contacted him for a comment.
Another ex-official of the EC told this newspaper that complaints of office-of-profit are decided only after the Commission is able to answer three questions: Whether the legislator held any office; Whether the office was held under the government and whether that office carried any profit.
“If you read the Commission’s order of June 23 (2017), it’s clear that it had decided only on the first question. The EC was of the opinion that the 20 AAP MLAs had held the office of Parliamentary Secretaries even though it was by way of illegal appointment.
“The order clearly states that this decision was taken without any ‘prejudice to the merits of the case’. This means that the EC should have held hearings on the merits of the case, which it didn’t,” the ex-official said.
“The EC’s opinion, it seems hasn’t been arrived after following due process and, hence, may not hold up in the court of law,” he added.
When asked about the EC opinion, former CEC S Y Quraishi told The Indian Express: “To me, it’s unclear whether (the merits of the case) were heard or not because the Delhi High Court is of the view that the these people (AAP MLAs) did not even appear before the Commission. This creates a confusing picture. Before we have all the facts and the written order of the EC, any comment is premature but everybody seems to be discussing it threadbare.”