The Election Commission’s decision to recommend the disqualification of 20 AAP MLAs for holding an “office of profit”, if approved by the President, will not only bring down the party’s strength in the assembly to 46 but also pave the way for bye-elections in the national capital.
The EC took the decision after failing to grant a personal hearing to all the MLAs. Initially, the case was against 21 AAP MLAs but the number now stands at 20 after party MLA Jarnail Singh resigned from the post to contest against former chief minister Parkash Singh Badal in Punjab.
The row over their appointment began in 2016 when the then President Pranab Mukherjee refused to sign a bill passed by the Delhi Assembly to exempt the post of parliamentary secretary from the purview of the office of profit.
Amid mounting criticism from the BJP and Congress over the “extra-judicial appointments”, AAP contended that its MLAs did not receive any pecuniary benefits and the appointments were legal.
The parliamentary secretaries, in their submission to the Election Commission, stated that neither have they received monetary benefits nor were assigned separate office space or cars for their official use.
Defending the appointments, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal insisted that the parliamentary secretaries were working for “free”. The Delhi High Court, however, set aside the appointments, further strengthening the case against the AAP MLAs.
The post of a parliamentary secretary is equal in rank to that of a Cabinet minister. Appointments to the post are usually made by ruling parties to appease dissident members.
So what is an office of profit?
With no clear definition available, we depend on past judicial pronouncements for clarity. These say there are two indispensable ingredients of an office of profit: “One, there should be an office and two, the office should carry some profit”. The definition of an office, quoted in Kanta Kathuria vs Manak Chand Surana, reads: An “office has an existence independent from the persons who filled it, which went on and was filled in succession by successive holders”.
In U.C.Raman vs P.T.A.Rahim and Ors, the Supreme Court categorically stated thus: “The word ‘profit’ has always been treated equivalent to or a substitute for the term ‘pecuniary gain’”. The principle that an “office” should have “receivables” attached to it for it to qualify as an OoP, has been upheld in other cases as well.
These are the 20 AAP MLAs the Election Commission has found guilty of ‘office of profit’
1. Adarsh Shastri from Dwarka constituency
2. Alka Lamba from Chandni Chowk constituency
3. Sanjeev Jha from Burari constituency
4. Kailash Gehlot from Najafgarh constituency
5. Vijendra Garg from Rajinder Nagar constituency
6. Praveen Kumar from Jangpura constituency
7. Sharad Kumar Chauhan from Narela constituency
8. Madan Lal Khufiya from Kasturba Nagar constituency
9. Shiv Charan Goyal from Moti Nagar constituency
10. Sarita Singh from Rohtas Nagar constituency
11. Naresh Yadav from Mehrauli constituency
12. Rajesh Gupta from Wazirpur constituency
13. Rajesh Rishi from Janakpuri constituency
14. Anil Kumar Bajpai from Gandhi Nagar constituency
15. Som Dutt from Sadar Bazar constituency
16. Avtar Singh from Kalkaji constituency
17. Sukhvir Singh Dala from Mundka constituency
18. Manoj Kumar from Kondli constituency
19. Nitin Tyagi from Laxmi Nagar constituency
20. Jarnail Singh from Tilak Nagar constituency