Two weeks after the Delhi High Court set aside the disqualification of 20 AAP MLAs on the ground that the Election Commission’s (EC) recommendation in the office-of-profit case was “bad in law”, the poll panel Friday set a date to hold a fresh hearing on the merits of the complaint. The Commission has dispatched notices to all legislators informing that Chief Election Commissioner O P Rawat and Election Commissioners Sunil Arora and Ashok Lavasa will conduct oral hearing on the matter at 3 pm on May 17.
In a 79-page order passed last month, the Delhi High Court had said that the Commission’s opinion, tendered to the President on January 19, had failed to “comply with the principles of natural justice” as the EC had not given the MLAs a hearing. The plea was then sent back to the Commission for fresh hearing. The EC had not held a single hearing on the case after its ruling of June 23, 2017, when Nasim Zaidi was the Chief Election Commissioner. The poll panel’s last ruling had stated that “the Commission will intimate the next date of hearing to all the parties concerned in the present proceedings in due course”. However, it tendered its opinion to the President on January 19. The EC had defended its decision to not hold oral hearings on the merits of the case on the ground that the AAP MLAs were asked to present their defence in writing, but they didn’t seek an opportunity for personal hearing.
The complaint, which will be heard by the EC next month, demands disqualification of 20 AAP MLAs on the ground that they were unconstitutionally appointed as parliamentary secretaries to assist various ministers of the Delhi government. The term ‘Office of Profit’ has been defined in the Constitution, which prohibits Members of Parliament and MLAs from accepting government positions which 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.