- AAP calls recommendation to disqualify lawmakers "unconstitutional"
- "We are seeking time to meet the President": AAP's Manish Sisodia
- He said MLAs weren't given chance to defend office of profit charges
This week, the Election Commission had asked President to disqualify the 20 lawmakers for violating office of profit provisions.
"We are seeking time to meet the President. The legislators will meet him and present evidence to support their case," Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia announced after the 20 legislators set to lose their seat met his boss, Arvind Kejriwal.
Should Rashtrapati Bhavan oblige the Aam Aadmi Party with an appointment, it is going to be a meeting high on optics, not substance, and would underline AAP's determination to fight the recommendation at all levels. Rashtrapati Bhavan does not have a discretion and the law requires the President to act on the commission's advice.
Mr Sisodia said the Election Commission's recommendation was "unconstitutional and undemocratic" because the legislators were not given an opportunity to defend the charge that they had violated the office of profit provisions. This is also against the principles of natural justice, he said.
Lawmakers, under the office of profit provisions, cannot hold any post in the government that entitles them to perks or powers unless a law has been passed to exempt the posts. If someone complains and the Election Commission finds that a particular office held by a legislator qualifies to be an office of profit, the lawmakers stand to lose their seats.
In 2015, someone did complain when Chief Minister Kejriwal appointed 21 lawmakers as parliamentary secretaries after the AAP swept the elections with a crushing majority, capturing 67 of the 70 seats. The idea was to involve legislators in running the government and flew in the face of the principle of separation of powers between the executive and legislature.
The AAP government reasons that this rejection was blatantly unfair and inspired by politics, not the Constitution, because many other states including Delhi had in the past made such exemptions.
In 2006, the Congress government-led by Sheila Dikshit had also pushed a similar law through the assembly. "How could the centre clear that bill but reject the one sent by the AAP government," asked Delhi Minister Gopal Rai.
"Despite one nation and one constitution... Delhi is being treated differently... is this not sabotage?" Mr Rai asked.
The party has also renewed its attack on Chief Election Commissioner AK Joti, who the party alleges, had a personal stake in the disqualification of the legislators just days before he was to demit office on turning 65. Mr Rai called the recommendation the bureaucrat's "parting gift to PM Modi". Mr Joti, who retires on Tuesday, was earlier a key aide of Mr Modi when he was the Gujarat Chief Minister.
"This is not a game," he said, declaring that the party would exhaust every legal and constitutional avenue. A petition filed by six AAP lawmakers is slated to come up for hearing on Monday.