HC restores 20 disqualified AAP MLAs' membership

Delhi High Court

Meanwhile, the 20 AAP MLAs, who were disqualified in the office-of-profit case, met Chief Minister and party chief Arvind Kejriwal at his residence here after the Delhi High Court provided them a breather.

The disqualified lawmakers moved the High Court last month contending that the poll panel notification was a "gross violation of natural justice because the Election Commission decided the matter in undue haste and without affording and giving any opportunity of fair hearing to the petitioners". The President, acting on the recommendation from the EC, had disqualified the MLAs "for holding office of profit". They had approached the High Court challenging their disqualification after President Kovind gave his assent to the EC's recommendation.

On April 19 past year, Mr. Rawat has recused himself from the reference proceedings after Delhi Chief Minister and party leader Arvind Kejriwal questioned his independence.

"The former CEC Dr Zaidi completed his term in June 2017, then Election Commissioner O.P. Rawat had recused himself from AAP hearings in March 2017 and then a new Election Commissioner Sunil Arora joined us only in August 2017", Joti said.

"Opinion of the ECI dated January 19 is vitiated and bad in law for failure to comply with the principles of natural justice", read the judgment. "Now that their offices will open again, people will be able to reach out to them with their concerns", a senior AAP functionary said. "So three interim orders were passed and almost two years given to the AAP MLAs - the case was referred to us by Rashtrapati Bhavan in December 2015", Joti added. The elected representatives were wrongfully disqualified.

The poll panel had contended that the MLAs had occupied the post of Parliamentary Secretaries between March 13, 2015 and September 8, 2016, so were holding the office of profit and were liable to be disqualified as legislators. Congress's Delhi unit president Ajay Maken tweeted. The relief is, however, temporary as the High Court has told the Election Commission to again hold the hearing and listen to the concerned MLAs also.

"The BJP is aware their government is doubly disqualified - first, for having illegally allotted offices of profit to 12 MLAs and second for not having disqualified the defecting MLA who has done so in gross violation of the Tenth Schedule of the Constitution and Supreme Court's decision in Kihoto Holohan v. Zachillu".

Earlier on January 22, the MLAs withdrew their plea from the High Court that they had filed on January 19 after the ECI's recommendation.

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