New Delhi: The High Court has restrained the Election Commission from announcing by-elections to the seats held by 20 Aam Aadmi Party legislators disqualified from the Delhi assembly for holding offices of profit till its next hearing on Monday.
Eight of the 20 MLAs from Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s AAP had filed three petitions requesting that an Election Commission recommendation to the President to disqualify them and the notification issued after President Ram Nath Kovind signed off on it be cancelled.
The MLAs have alleged that the Election Commission recommended their disqualification without giving them a fair chance to defend themselves and asked the court to order the poll panel to hear their side. They also sought that the disqualification be reversed till the EC hears the matter again.
AAP has contended that the Election Commission acted in “undue haste,” accusing it of “working like a khap panchayat” or kangaroo court. The party insists that its MLAs drew no salary or perks as parliamentary secretaries, appointed to assist ministers with their work, and so there is no question of their having held offices of profit.
New Chief Election Commissioner OP Rawat has rejected AAP’s allegations saying that the panel has always been “neutral and unbiased.”
The court’s intervention means that the Delhi Assembly Speaker does not have to act on the Presidential order disqualifying the AAP legislators just yet. The Election Commission can move the Supreme court against the High Court’s order.
Disqualification of the legislators will mean elections will have to be held for the 20 Delhi seats. That will not impact Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s government even if AAP loses all 20 seats, since it has a massive majority in the assembly with 66 of 70 seats.