Delhi HC Sets Aside Disqualification of 20 AAP MLAs in Office-of-Profit Case

News18.com
The case has now been referred back to the Election Commission for reconsideration.

New Delhi: In major relief for 20 MLAs of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), the Delhi High Court on Friday set aside the disqualification of the Delhi lawmakers in the office-of-profit case.

The judgment was delivered by a bench of Justices Sanjiv Khanna and Chander Shekhar on the grounds that the lawmakers were not given proper hearing. The case has now been referred back to the poll panel for reconsideration.

"Opinion of the Election Commission of India is vitiated and bad in law for failure to comply with the principles of natural justice," the order said.

Moments after the verdict, Delhi CM and AAP national convener Arvind Kejriwal tweeted that "truth has triumphed". He is scheduled to meet the 20 MLAs at his residence later.

Congress leaders Ajay Maken, however, said the AAP celebrations were premature. “This is temporary relief. The AAP MLAs should not celebrate. They were holding the post of benefit.”

Eight of the 20 disqualified AAP MLAs had moved the High Court on January 23 against the presidential order disqualifying them for holding office of profit as ‘parliamentary secretaries’ in the Delhi government.

A single-judge bench of the High Court on January 24 had directed the Election Commission to maintain status quo on the disqualification by withholding the announcement of bypoll dates for the Delhi Assembly seats that would have fallen vacant if the MLAs were disqualified.

After the case was transferred to a two-judge bench in January, it was heard on a day-to-day basis.

Senior advocates KV Vishwanathan and Mohan Parasaran appearing for the MLAs had challenged their disqualification on the grounds of violation of the principles of natural justice.

It was further argued that the post of parliamentary secretary could not be considered as an ‘office of profit’ as there was no element of ‘profit’ or pecuniary benefit attached to it. The post was similar to that of an intern to a minister, it was submitted.

Amit Sharma, appearing for the Election Commission, submitted before the bench that the existence of pecuniary benefit was not the only requirement to establish an office of profit. It was argued that discharging executive duties and function as parliamentary secretaries also constituted an office of profit. It was further stated that principles of natural justice were sufficiently complied with by providing the MLAs an opportunity to file their written submissions in their defence.

In March 2015, the Delhi government had appointed 21 MLAs as parliamentary secretaries. Since then, one has resigned from the assembly. The appointments were made to assist cabinet ministers and include more MLAs in governance work. The

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