Delhi High Court quashes EC's disqualification of 20 AAP MLAs
23 March 2018
The Delhi High Court on Friday set aside the Election Commission’s (EC) notification disqualifying its 20 MLAs in connection with the office-of-profit case.
It also referred the matter back to the Election Commission, directing it to reconsider its order. This gives the 20 Aam Admi Party MLAs the opportunity to present their defence through an oral hearing.
A bench of justices Sanjiv Khanna and Chander Shekhar stated that the Centre’s notification disqualifying the AAP MLAs was “bad in law” and termed the EC’s recommendation on disqualification as “vitiated”.
Maintaining that disqualified legislators were not given the opportunity to address the issue, the bench remanded their plea back to the EC, to hear the matter afresh.
Firstpost reported, in a scathing remark, the high court cited three reasons for its order:
- Violation of oral hearing norms by the EC and denial (of opportunity) to AAP MLAs to present their case.
- Failure of the EC to inform AAP MLAs (parties in the case) that Om Prakash Rawat (Chief Election Commissioner of India) after recusing himself from the case, has rejoined the proceedings.
- Violation of natural justice.
The court ruled, “Opinion of Election Commission of India (given to the President of India) dated January 19, 2018, is vitiated and bad in law for failure to comply with principles of natural justice.”
The EC had on 19 January 2018 recommended that the AAP MLAs be disqualified for holding offices of profit after having been appointed parliamentary secretaries to ministers in the Delhi government in March 2015.
Within two days President Ram Nath Kovind had approved the disqualification.
The aggrieved MLAs approached the Delhi High Court challenging their disqualification.arguing that EC's order disqualifying them for allegedly holding offices of profit was passed in "complete violation of natural justice" as they were not given an opportunity to explain their stand before it.
The EC was of the "considered opinion" that the MLAs were "de facto" parliamentary secretaries from 13 March 2015, to 8 September 2016, till the Delhi High Court had set aside the appointments by terming those unconstitutional.
On 24 January 2018, the high court refused to stay the Centre's notification disqualifying them but restrained the EC from taking “precipitate measures” like announcing dates for bypolls to fill the vacancies.