The Delhi High Court has issued a notice to the Election Commission and the Centre on a petition challenging the Presidential notification disqualifying 20 Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) MLAs in Delhi for allegedly holding office of profit. Justice Vibhu Bakhru, who refused to stay the MLAs’ disqualification, asked the Election Commission not to “precipitate” the situation by announcing byelections to the 20 vacant seats in the Delhi Legislative Assembly till the next date of hearing. The court summoned the record of the proceedings before the Election Commission and posted the matter for further hearing on January 29.
Besides the Election Commission and the Union Ministry of Law and Justice, the High Court also issued a notice to advocate Prashant Patel, who had in 2015 filed a petition for disqualifying the MLAs for holding office of profit. The disqualified MLAs were appointed Parliamentary Secretaries in 2015. The post was later quashed by the Delhi High Court. A Bill passed by the Delhi Assembly to remove the post out of the ambit of ‘office of profit’ was rejected by the President.
Accusing the Election Commission of acting in a “whimsical, arbitrary, capricious manner”, the disqualified AAP MLAs termed the impugned notification as “unconstitutional, null and void, and against principles of natural justice.” They contended that the Election Commission had decided the issue in undue haste and without affording any opportunity of fair hearing to the legislators.