Office of Profit case: EC files affidavit in Delhi HC

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New Delhi:The Election Commission was not bound to call Aam Aadmi Party, or AAP, lawmakers for an oral hearing before recommending their disqualification to President Ram Nath Kovind, the election body has told the Delhi High Court in an affidavit. The commission said the 20 lawmakers disqualified in an office of profit case had been given “ample opportunity to come and participate in several hearings” earlier but the lawmakers “gave only illusionary responses”.
A bench of Justices Sanjiv Khanna and Chander Shekhar was further told that the AAP MLAs have challenged the Election Commission’s recommendation, which is non-existent once President Ram Nath Kovind has taken a decision on it.The poll panel said that the MLAs have not challenged the President’s January 20 decision, by which its recommendation was accepted. The commission was responding to the MLAs plea seeking quashing of the decision to disqualify them from the Delhi Legislative Assembly. Earlier, the commission had told the court that it would rely upon the opinion it gave to the President to disqualify the 20 MLAs who were appointed as parliamentary secretaries.
On January 30, the High Court had asked the Election Commission to file an affidavit on the factual aspects based on which the poll body decided to disqualify 20 MLAs of the Aam Aadmi Party for holding office of profit. The Commission was asked to file a written reply on the matter. The case will be heard in HC on February 7.
The MLAs are accused of holding offices of profit in the past as they were appointed parliamentary secretaries to ministers in the Delhi government in March 2015. This was soon after they were elected to the Delhi Assembly.
In response to the Election Commission’s notices in March 2016, the AAP government had passed a bill amending the Delhi Members of Legislative Assembly (Removal of Disqualification) Act, 1997, to exempt the post from the definition of “office of profit”. The party maintained that the legislators did not hold offices of profit as they were not getting “pecuniary benefit”.

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