The Road Ahead for AAP and its 20 Disqualified MLAs in 'Office of Profit' Case

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Sources in the party said that the petition was filed to seek a stay on Election Commission's recommendation for their disqualification, and it was withdrawn keeping in view Sunday’s developments.

New Delhi: Even though the Speaker of the Delhi Assembly has not received any official communication, the government notification, disqualifying 20 AAP MLAs, issued on Sunday cannot be ignored.

Post the notification, the disqualified AAP MLAs cease to be members of the House and can no longer claim their entitlements, including their salary from that day onwards. However, as ex members, they can still access some medical benefits. If they choose, they can also apply for pensions.

Starting today, the 20 Assembly constituencies in Delhi will now go unrepresented. MLALAD fund for each of these constituencies will go unspent. If and when elections are announced, the model code of conduct will kick in which means loss of work for one more month.

Praveen Kumar, AAP MLA from Jungpura said, “Each day 100-150 people come to me only for my MLA signature for Aadhaar card, address change, widows’ pension, old age pension. They had come today as well. I feel awkward that I cannot sign and am unable to help them.”

About losing his salary, Praveen said: “It will be difficult, but friends have said they will help,” adding that the EC decision has been unfair not just for him but for Delhi.

Adarsh Shastri, another disqualified MLA, when asked about losing his salary, said: “It was our only source of income and it does affect us but we were not in it for the salary. Work in Dwarka will come to a grinding halt.”

Shastri believes that people of Delhi will see through the “high handed, dictatorial and intolerant” attitude of the Modi-led government because “people of Delhi were the first to recognise and embrace a political alternative”.

If elections are held, all 20 disqualified MLAs will fight from their constituencies. AAP will not change candidates, revealed a source.

In the Delhi Assembly, veteran members of the secretariat marvel at the speed with which the notification was issued. The EC gives its opinion on the 19th, on 20th the President gives assent and on 21st the notification of disqualification is published. It is rare, said a watcher, when government functions with such speed.

In the meantime, the EC, which has six months’ time to hold elections to these constituencies, may at any point, go ahead and declare dates. The process will be set in motion if the AAP fails to get a stay either from the High Court or the Supreme Court. In fact, both processes, hearing in court and preparations for elections can happen simultaneously.

AAP is confident that the order of the EC suffers from various legal infirmities: the most glaring of them is that it fails to take note of the latest ‘Raman Vs Rahim' case where the SC clearly laid down that 'pecuniary gain' is the most important indicator while judging whether a legislator holds an office of profit, and also said that influence is not profit. However, in the EC order, 'influence' is read as profit. Joti's reference to parliamentary committee reports are also being questioned as they are merely recommendatory in nature, not mandatory.

The strength of the House now stands at 50, the half-way mark is 26 and AAP has 46 members.