No Delhi Election Dates Until Court Decides On Disqualified AAP Lawmakers

The AAP lawmakers have requested the court to cancel the order disqualifying them, alleging that the Election Commission made its recommendation without giving them a fair chance to defend themselves and have sought that the poll panel be ordered to hear their side.

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No Delhi Election Dates Until Court Decides On Disqualified AAP Lawmakers

On AAP lawmakers' disqualification, Delhi High Court says no by-polls till it hears their appeal


New Delhi: 

Highlights

  1. Election Commission sacked 20 Aam Aadmi Party lawmakers
  2. They were accused of holding offices of profit
  3. If 20 MLAs are deemed sacked, by-elections will have to be called
In significant relief for Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal, elections for 20 seats in the capital cannot be called for now, the Delhi High Court ruled today. It said the Election Commission must wait till it has heard Team Kejriwal's claim of its lawmakers being wrongly disqualified. It will next hear the case on Monday.

Three days ago, President Ram Nath Kovind said the 20 Aam Aadmi Party lawmakers stand sacked because they held offices of profit. His decision was based on the recommendation of the Election Commission, which said that by serving as parliamentary secretaries, the lawmakers had crossed the line that bans them from any perks or financial benefits that accompany government positions.

A government post is considered out of bounds for lawmakers because they could then skew towards the executive. Parliamentary secretaries assist ministers; several states like Madhya Pradesh and Rajasthan have amended laws that allow lawmakers to perform this function. The Delhi government had also passed a similar bill in the assembly but it did not receive the Lieutenant Governor's nod, and so, could not become law.

If the 20 lawmakers are deemed sacked, by-elections will have to be called for their seats - that's over a third of Delhi's 70 seats which means this exercise would turn into a mini-election. AAP has recently lost a string of elections including for municipal bodies. AAP has 66 of the 70 seats - so its majority could decline but the government will not be in danger even if it performs poorly in the election.

But a bad result would weaken Mr Kejriwal's moral and political authority at a time when his party is seen as vulnerable to fissures after his falling out with another popular leader, Kumar Vishwas.

Raghav Chadha and Sanjay Singh, senior AAP leaders, say the Election Commission is acting on behalf of the BJP in a blatant misuse of power.

They say that the Election Commission ignored the lawmakers' right and request to present their cases. The Election Commission, on the other hand, says that AAP skipped several chances to defend itself.

The party insists that its lawmakers drew no salary or perks as parliamentary secretaries and so there is no question of their having held offices of profit.

Mr Kejriwal had in 2015, appointed 21 AAP lawmakers as parliamentary secretaries soon after his party swept the Delhi assembly elections. A lawyer and later, the Congress, petitioned the Election Commission to disqualify them.

The High Court later cancelled their appointment as Delhi's Lieutenant Governor, the capital's administrative head had not cleared them. One of the MLAs resigned last year.


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