AAP 'office of Profit' case: BJP hails HC order

Delhi High Court sets aside disqualification of 20 AAP MLAs in office of profit case, sends matter back to EC

Even as the Delhi High Court Friday set aside the Election Commission's order disqualifying 20 Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) MLAs saying it was bad in law, A.K. Joti, who was the chief election commissioner when the decision was taken told ThePrint that adequate time was given to the legislators to respond.

A bench of justices Sanjiv Khanna and Chander Shekhar kept its decision pending since 28 February, when it had reserved the judgement after the legislators, Election Commission of India (EC) and other parties had concluded their arguments.

In a blow to the AAP, the EC had in January asked President Ram Nath Kovind to disqualify 20 of its MLAs for holding the office of profit, setting the stage for their ouster from the Assembly.

Quashing the opinion, the court said that the EC had failed to give oral hearing to address arguments on merits of whether the petitioners had incurred disqualification.

"High court has given justice to the people of Delhi", tweeted AAP chief and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal.

That one of the Election Commissioners, OP Rawat, had initially recused himself, but had later joined the proceedings in a way which is contrary to law.

"There is a principle of natural justice". "Now that their offices will open again, people will be able to reach out to them with their concerns", a senior AAP functionary said.

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The office of profit case pertains to the appointment of the MLAs as Parliamentary Secretaries in the Arvind Kejriwal cabinet.

Delhi Congress chief Ajay Maken said that he would again fight in the EC against the 20 AAP MLAs as they have enjoyed perks. The representatives who were elected by the people of Delhi were wrongfully suspended.

The EC will now re-hear the office of profit case.

"We welcomed the directions in this matter of the Court and the Election Commission in the past". AAP's victory during the Assembly elections in 2015 fueled the controversy.

Advocate Prashant Patel had filed a complaint to the then President Pranab Mukherjee, alleging that the MLAs holding the offices of Parliamentary Secretaries was ultra vires of the Constitution.

The high court had on January 24 refused to stay the Centre's notification disqualifying them, but had restrained the poll panel from taking any "precipitate measures" such as announcing dates for bypolls to fill the vacancies.

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