The Delhi High Court Wednesday restrained the Election Commission (EC) from issuing any “further orders” till the next date of hearing in a plea filed by eight disqualified AAP MLAs. The Election Commission (EC) had, last week, recommended that 20 AAP MLAs, who were appointed as Parliamentary Secretaries, be disqualified as they were holding offices of profit. The President, too, gave his nod to the recommendation.
On Wednesday, eight of the disqualified AAP MLAs filed three petitions challenging the EC’s order. One petition was filed by AAP MLA Alka Lamba; another by Rajesh Rishi and Som Dutt; and the third one by MLAs Kailash Gehlot, Madan Lal, Sharad Kumar, Nitin Tyagi and Sarita Singh.
Justice Vibhu Bakhru, while hearing one of the petitions, said, “We will conduct the hearing on Monday and till then you (EC) will not issue any further orders regarding this issue. Do not precipitate the situation.”
As the AAP counsel made the submissions, Justice Bakhru asked if the plea also contested the Presidential assent. The counsel said the plea was not contesting the Presidential assent, but the fact that “the EC did not present the full picture to the President”. Justice Bakhru then sought the poll panel’s and the Centre’s response.
K V Vishwanathan, counsel for the disqualified AAP leaders, said that the EC did not follow the principle of natural justice. “…This is not an office of profit as traditionally understood,” he submitted. The counsel said the reference given by the EC is in “undue haste without giving a fair hearing to the petitioners”.
The petition stated, “EC has acted contrary to the principles of natural justice by willfully depriving the petitioners to submit oral submissions…” The counsel also submitted that the then Election Commissioner OP Rawat had recused himself from hearing the case and later rejoined the proceedings — which is “unknown in the law”. The counsel requested the court to grant some relief before a final order is passed.
To this, the EC counsel submitted that he did not see any reason to disturb the present position till the next date of hearing. “Nothing will happen between now and the next date of hearing,” he said. He also cited Supreme Court judgments, making a reference that the matter should be heard by a division bench. To this, Justice Bakhru said, “I am just following the roster.”