Un­cer­tainty Looms Large for Delhi AAP MLAs over ‘Of­fice of Profit’ Is­sue

About 21 MLAs ap­pointed as par­lia­men­tary se­cys may be dis­qual­i­fied from assem­bly

The Economic Times - - Pure Politics -

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.

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