Uncertainty Looms Large for Delhi AAP MLAs over ‘Office of Profit’ Issue
About 21 MLAs appointed as parliamentary secys may be disqualified from assembly
New Delhi: Uncertainty seems to be building up over the fate of 21 Aam Aadmi Party MLAs who were appointed as parliamentary secretaries last year by chief minister Arvind Kejriwal. The MLAs are now facing the threat of being disqualified from the Delhi assembly for allegedly holding ‘offices of profit’.
Asked by the Election Commission (EC) last month to reply by April 11 to a petition seeking their disqualification — filed in June 2015 with President Pranab Mukherjee — all 21 MLAs have sought extension.
“A reply was sent on Friday. The MLAs have sought extension of deadlinebysixtoeightweeks.Moretimeis needed for getting information from government about details like remuneration and facilities being given to p a r l i a me n t a r y secretaries. Information from different government departments will have to be taken about it,” said an AAP member, requesting anonymity.
With the EC taking serious cognizance of the issue, and chief minister ArvindKejriwalhavinglinkeditwith his battle with the Centre and said in assembly last month that dismissal was possible, the MLAs are a worried lot and have sought to make the government party in the proceedings.
“We would like the Delhi government to become party. After all, it was the government, which notified our appointments,” said the AAP member quoted earlier.
One of the parliamentary secretaries, speaking on the condition of anonymity, argued the case of the 21 MLAs. “You can’t call this an office of profit. We are not getting any rooms like the ministers in the Delhi secretariat. Also, what happens in the assembly is a decision taken by the Speaker, not government,” said the AAP MLA, while arguing the matter.
EC officials told ET that the Chief ElectionCommissionerandtwoother Election Commissioners will finally decide on what to recommend to the President, who will finally take the call. “Disqualifications of members in Parliament as well as state assemblies have happened in the past, so anything is possible. I don’t wish to hazard a guess,” said an EC official. The EC had sent a notice in midMarch after President’s secretariat forwarded the petition filed by advocate Prashant Patel of the Hindu Legal Cell.
In his petition, Patel had argued that parliamentary secretary is a wholly-unrecognised and non-existent post in Delhi and the members, who have been appointed as such, have become holders of an ‘office of profit’ particularly as they have also been extended the f acility of government transport, room or office space etc.
In its official statement on March 14 last year, Delhi government had said the appointments have been done ‘for smooth functioning of the government’.
Parliamentary secretaries aid cabinet ministers and share workload since all ministers have multiple portfolios. Days after Patel’s petition, an amendment bill was passed by the Delhi assembly for shielding the AAP MLAs by legal means, but it is yet to get Centre’s approval.