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Delhi HC refuses protection to disqualified AAP MLAs pulls them up over their conduct

The Delhi High Court on Friday refused interim protection to Aam Aadmi Party MLAs whose names earlier had been recommended by Election Commission for disqualification on ground of holding office of profit.

According to the Times of India, A Single-judge bench of Justice Rekha Palli, not happy with the conduct of disqualification facing AAP MLAs before the Election Commission, observed that the court was not inclined to grant them protection considering their behavior.

Pointing to the records before the court about conduct of erring MLAs and their reluctance over participating in the proceedings before EC, Palli said that “You don’t have a stay from the high court but you tell the EC that it should not touch the matter as the high court is seized of it. Your conduct is such that you do not care to go before the EC. Who stopped you? The high court did not prevent you from going before the EC.”

The Court further grilled them over using “pendency of the pleas in the High court” as a shield and said that the court was not inclined to issue any order unless it hears the Election Commission.

The Election Commission had earlier recommended names of 20 AAP MLAs for disqualification on ground of holding office of profit and 6 out of 20 MLAs challenged move before the High Court on the ground that EC never heard them before recommending their names for disqualification.

The affected MLAs had through their counsel mentioned the application before a bench headed by Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal for an urgent hearing and then it was listed before Justice Palli. Justice Palli was furious over the stance of AAP MLAs who had dictated to EC as to how it could proceed with their disqualification matter when high court had already stayed it when in fact there was no stayed granted by the high court. The High Court had only issued a notice seeking reply.

The Court however asked Election Commission to inform it by January 22 whether any final communication has been sent to President Ram Nath Kovind over the issue.

However, the Court pulled up Election Commission too after Advocate Manish Vashishth, representing one of the MLAs facing disqualification, told the court that the poll panel has not heard them before arriving at the decision to disqualify them. He also said that till date, the ECI has not filed its reply in HC to their petitions filed in August last year. The Court while considering argument put forth by Vashishth told EC Counsel, “There are 20 people involved. How can you take it so lightly,” it asked, after which the lawyer for the EC said a reply would be filed in two weeks in the main petitions in which the applications were today moved challenging the poll panel’s recommendation to disqualify the MLAs.”

Twenty AAP MLAs disqualified by EC are Adarsh Shastri (Dwarka), Alka Lamba (Chandni Chowk), Anil Bajpai (Gandhi Nagar), Avtar Singh (Kalkaji), Kailash Gahlot (Najafgarh) — who is also a minister — Madan Lal (Kasturba Nagar), Manoj Kumar (Kondli), Naresh Yadav (Mehrauli), Nitin Tyagi (Laxmi Nagar), Praveen Kumar (Jangpura), Rajesh Gupta (Wazirpur), Rajesh Rishi ( Janakpuri), Sanjeev Jha (Burari), Sarita Singh (Rohtas Nagar), Som Dutt (Sadar Bazar), Sharad Kumar (Narela), Shiv Charan Goel (Moti Nagar), Sukhbir Singh (Mundka), Vijendar Garg (Rajinder Nagar) and Jarnail Singh (Tilak Nagar) and 6 who have challenged the move before HC are law minister Kailash Gehlot, Som Dutt, Nitin Tyagi, Madanlal, Sanjiv Jha and Sharad Kumar.

It must be noted that the Election Commission has disqualified these AAP MLAs after acting on a petition filed by a lawyer namely Prashant Patel before President Pranab Mukherjee’s secretariat in June 2015 alleging illegality in appointment of Parliamentary Secretaries in the AAP government.

The Election Commission noted ground of holding “office of profit” behind disqualifications. Constitutional mandate prohibits MPs and MLAs from holding any “office of profit”. There have been many instances in past where acting legislators faced charges of disqualification over holding office of profit.

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