The Election Commission Tuesday dismissed the Aam Aadmi Party’s plea to summon and examine Delhi government officials as witnesses in the office-of-profit case against its 21 legislators.
Tuesday’s order is the second rejection faced by the political party in the fresh hearings currently underway at the EC in the office-of-profit case. In July, the Commission had shot down AAP’s application to cross-examine the petitioner Prashant Patel.
AAP had sought examination of Delhi government officials as witnesses, to prove that its lawmakers had not received any benefits during the time they had served as parliamentary secretaries. To this argument, the EC, in its order, said it was not concerned about the actual benefit, but whether the office of parliamentary secretary “was capable of yielding profit”.
The order states, “…as far as proving the non-receipt of benefits is concerned, it is reiterated that it is not the actual receipt but the potential that is to be seen in an enquiry like the present matter… There is again no need to call any witness to prove that no benefit was taken by the applicants/respondents by virtue of occupying the post of parliamentary secretaries.”
“The documents mentioned in application (filed by AAP) are all self-explanatory when read in conjunction with other related documents available on record… Therefore, there is no reason to call witnesses to give evidence of the same,” the order further reads.
The Commission has been hearing the AAP case afresh since the Delhi High Court set aside the disqualification of AAP MLAs, on the ground that the EC’s opinion was “bad in law” and violated the “principles of natural justice”.
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 temptations from the executive.