The disqualified Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) MLAs on Monday claimed in the Delhi High Court that they were held guilty of holding office of profit by the Election Commission without giving them an opportunity to explain their stand.
The MLAs, all 20 of whom have now filed a plea in the high court against their disqualification, submitted before a bench of justices Sanjiv Khanna and Chander Shekhar that the poll panel had sent its opinion to President Ram Nath Kovind by “flouting the principles of natural justice”.
“There was no communication to us (AAP MLAs) from the Election Commission (EC) about the hearing before it. It is in complete violation of natural justice,” senior advocate K V Viswanathan, appearing for some of the MLAs, submitted.
The submissions on behalf of the MLAs came during the nearly three-hour-long day-to-day hearing of the legislators’ pleas challenging their disqualification for holding offices of profit.
The AAP MLAs counsel submitted that the EC’s order is not only “wrong and erroneous”, it is also “unfortunately not acting fairly” and has failed to discharge its statutory duty.
“It is also that even a temporary government employer cannot be removed on the grounds of miscounduct without holding a full-fledged inquiry.
“However, in the present case, the members of the legislative assembly were removed without holding a full-fledged inquiry and without giving them any opportunity to explain if they ever held any office of profit,” the bench was told.
The arguments on behalf of the MLAs, which remained inconclusive, will resume tomorrow.
The high court had on January 24 refused to stay the Centre’s notification disqualifying the MLAs, but restrained the Commission from taking any “precipitate measures” such as announcing dates for bypolls to fill the vacancies.
The EC had recommended the disqualification of 20 AAP MLAs on January 19. The President had accepted the EC’s opinion the very next day.
The 20 disqualified MLAs include Adarsh Shastri (Dwarka), Alka Lamba (Chandni Chowk), Anil Bajpai (Gandhi Nagar), Avtar Singh (Kalkaji), Kailash Gahlot (Najafgarh) — who is also a minister — Madan Lal (Kasturba Nagar), Manoj Kumar (Kondli), Naresh Yadav (Mehrauli), Nitin Tyagi (Laxmi Nagar), Praveen Kumar (Jangpura).
The others are Rajesh Gupta (Wazirpur), Rajesh Rishi (Janakpuri), Sanjeev Jha (Burari), Sarita Singh (Rohtas Nagar), Som Dutt (Sadar Bazar), Sharad Kumar (Narela), Shiv Charan Goel (Moti Nagar), Sukhbir Singh (Mundka), Vijendar Garg (Rajinder Nagar) and Jarnail Singh (Tilak Nagar).
The Delhi High Court had on September 8, 2016, set aside their appointment as parliamentary secretaries on the grounds that they were appointed without the concurrence of the Lieutenant Governor (LG).