Arvind Kejriwal is said to have told his 20 MLAs not to be nervous if by-elections have to happen
New Delhi: The Delhi High Court will today evening hear the Aam Aadmi Party's appeal against the disqualification of 20 legislators from the Delhi assembly for holding offices of profit. After President Ram Nath Kovind accepted the recommendation of the Election Commission to disqualify them on Sunday, the party has now pinned its hope on the intervention of courts to avoid losing its seats in the Delhi assembly. If the High Court rejects the AAP's appeal, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal's party has said it will move the Supreme Court.
Here's your 10-point cheatsheet to this big story:
- The Election Commission recommended to the President on Friday last that the 20 AAP legislators, by occupying the post of parliamentary secretaries between March 2015 and September 2016, had held offices of profit and should be disqualified.
- AAP leaders had requested the President to hear their side before accepting the poll panel's recommendation, but President Kovind did not entertain their request and signed off on disqualifying the party's MLAs yesterday.
- "President's order to disqualify AAP MLAs is unconstitutional and dangerous for democracy," said senior AAP leader Ashutosh. Parliamentary secretaries assist ministers with their work. AAP insists that despite holding the post, its MLAs did not take salary or perks and so they cannot be seen as having held offices of profit.
- If courts do not stop the disqualification, by-elections will be held for the 20 seats. Even the loss of all 20 will not impact AAP's majority in the Delhi assembly. The party has 65 seats in the 70-member assembly. If it is reduced to 46, it will still have many more MLAs than the majority mark of 35. In an open letter addressed to the people of Delhi, Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia said in a tweet, "Is it justified to disqualify elected leaders in such an unconstitutional and illegal way? Is it fair to force elections? Is this not dirty politics?"
- Delhi's opposition parties Congress and the BJP have said Mr Kejriwal should quit on "moral grounds". The BJP has four members in the Delhi assembly, the Congress has none and a by-election will give both parties a chance to win a few seats.
- AAP has said in the High Court that its legislators were not given an opportunity for defence by the Election Commission. It attacked Chief Election Commissioner AK Joti, calling the recommendation to disqualify its MLAs his "parting gift to PM Modi". Mr Joti retires today.
- The Congress's Ajay Maken, who had appealed to the Election Commission to disqualify the AAP legislators, has alleged that "AAP has been helped by the BJP and the Election Commission by delaying the decision for over three weeks." He said had it come earlier, the 20 legislators couldn't have voted in the Delhi Rajya Sabha elections in which AAP won all three seats.
- The BJP's Meenakshi Lekhi said, "The fact that their RS nomination happened means EC was working at its own pace and there was no pressure that Arvind Kejriwal seems to have alleged. These are constitutional bodies whose mandate is to obey the law."
- Allowed to appoint only a limited number of ministers, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal had sought to reward 21 MLAs after the AAP's sweep of the Delhi assembly elections with the post of parliament secretaries. He did so after AAP pushed an amendment to the Delhi Members of Legislative Assembly Act to exempt the post from the definition of office of profit with retrospective effect. One of the legislators quit last year.
- In September 2016, the High Court had cancelled their appointment, saying it was done without the approval of the Lieutenant Governor, the administrative head of Delhi. The Congress had appealed to the Election Commission to disqualify the AAP legislators for holding offices of profit.
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