AAP row: From office of profit to Delhi Chief Secy; all you need to know

Arvind Kejriwal
Amid the alleged assault of Delhi Chief Secretary Anshu Prakash, 20 AAP MLAs, who were disqualified on the Election Commission's (EC) recommendation for holding office of profit, have withdrawn from the Delhi High Court their earlier plea challenging the poll panel's initial decision to hear the issue.

The Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) MLAs had in August last year challenged the EC's decision to continue hearing the complaint against them for holding office of profit, saying that once the high court had set aside their appointments as parliamentary secretaries there was no need for the poll panel to hear the matter.

The MLAs submitted before Justice Rekha Palli that they are going to withdraw their earlier plea as they have challenged their subsequent disqualification before a larger bench of the high court.

As there was no opposition from the other side, the court "dismissed as withdrawn" the MLAs earlier plea challenging the EC's June 23, 2017 decision.

The office of profit petition was filed in the EC by Prashant Patel against 21 MLAs of the Arvind Kejriwal-led party.

Subsequently, the proceedings were dropped against Jarnail Singh after he resigned as the Rajouri Garden MLA to contest the Punjab Assembly polls.

The EC was of the "considered opinion" that the MLAs were "de facto" parliamentary secretaries from March 13, 2015 to September 8, 2016, when the high court had set aside the appointments by terming unconstitutional.

On September 8, 2016 the high court had set aside the appointments of the 21 AAP MLAs as parliamentary secretaries, while observing that their order of appointment was issued without the concurrence of the Lieutenant Governor (LG).

The EC had recommended the disqualification of the 20 AAP MLAs on January 19. The president had accepted the EC's opinion the very next day. Thereafter, the MLAs have challenged their disqualification order, which the high court is hearing on day-to-day basis.

The 20 disqualified MLAs include Adarsh Shastri (Dwarka), Alka Lamba (Chandni Chowk), Anil Bajpai (Gandhi Nagar), Avtar Singh (Kalkaji), Kailash Gahlot (Najafgarh), Madan Lal (Kasturba Nagar), Manoj Kumar (Kondli), Naresh Yadav (Mehrauli), Nitin Tyagi (Laxmi Nagar), Praveen Kumar (Jangpura).

The others are Rajesh Gupta (Wazirpur), Rajesh Rishi (Janakpuri), Sanjeev Jha (Burari), Sarita Singh (Rohtas Nagar), Som Dutt (Sadar Bazar), Sharad Kumar (Narela), Shiv Charan Goel (Moti Nagar), Sukhbir Singh (Mundka), Vijendar Garg (Rajinder Nagar) and Jarnail Singh (Tilak Nagar).

Police seizes hard disk from Kejriwal's house

Delhi Police team on Friday seized a hard disk containing CCTV footage from the residence of Arvind Kejriwal in connection with the chief secretary's "assault" incident, while the chief minister knocked on the LG's doors to ensure that the government's work was not hit due to the boycott by bureaucrats, even as the Centre hinted that the AAP supremo might be questioned in the case.

A total of 21 CCTV cameras and a hard disk were examined by the police. The hard disk was seized and any possibility of "tampering" with the system could be ascertained only after forensic examinations, Additional DCP (North) Harendra Singh said, adding that there was a time-lag of 40-43 minutes with respect to the time of the alleged incident.

He added that 14 CCTV cameras were working, while seven were not.

The woes of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) government did not end there as former bureaucrat Dhir Jhingran resigned from its State Advisory Council For Education to express solidarity with Chief Secretary Anshu Prakash, who was allegedly assaulted by some AAP MLAs.

To make things worse for the ruling dispensation, the party's legislator from Narela, Naresh Balyan, triggered a fresh controversy by saying officers, who created hurdles in the works meant for people's welfare, should be beaten up, days after Prakash alleged that he was assaulted by the AAP MLAs.

Meanwhile, Union minister Hansraj Gangaram Ahir hinted that Kejriwal might be questioned by the police in connection with the alleged assault on the bureaucrat.

"Whoever it may be, the police will question all those in whose presence the incident took place," he said.

The AAP accused the Delhi Police of acting like a bully at the behest of the Centre by "illegally" entering the chief minister's house and alleged that the action was aimed at "insulting and humiliating" Kejriwal.

Without taking the name of the BJP or its leaders, AAP MP Sanjay Singh said it was "unfortunate" that some "dictators" and people with the mentality of "hooligans" had captured power, be it in Gujarat, Haryana, Maharashtra, Rajasthan or Madhya Pradesh.

"The dadagiri by the Delhi Police at Arvind Kejriwal's residence is being done at the behest of the BJP. The Delhi Police is a mere puppet, but the Centre is resorting to such dadagiri to dismiss the Delhi government," he said.

At a press conference, the AAP also showed a two-and-a-half-minute clip, in which senior police officials were seen inside the residence of the chief minister, purportedly asking questions about the wall paint of the room.

The police claimed that its action (of dispatching a team to Kejriwal's house to collect evidence) came after its request for CCTV footage from the chief minister's residence "was not met".

The timing of the presence of the chief secretary at the chief minister's residence is important because Prakash has claimed that he was called at midnight and assaulted. The AAP, on the other hand, has claimed that Prakash had reached the chief minister's residence at 11.25 PM.

"The time-lag of the CCTV cameras corroborates that the complainant was at the CM's residence at midnight (12.05 AM) and not at 11.25 PM, as was the plea of the AAP in the court," a top Delhi Police official said.

If the time-lag of 40 minutes was added to 11.25 PM, it would match the time the chief secretary claimed to have reached at Kejriwal's residence, he added.

CM Kejriwal knocks on LG's doors

Meanwhile, Kejriwal and his cabinet colleagues met Lieutenant Governor (LG) Anil Baijal and said the latter had assured them that he would take all steps to ensure that the officers started functioning normally.

The bureaucrats in the Delhi government had earlier decided to boycott all the meetings called by the ministers.

"Officers not attending meetings for last 3 days. Governance suffering. I m v concerned. LG assured he will take all steps to ensure officers started functioning normally. Council of ministers assured him all cooperation. All of us need to work together for betterment of Delhi (sic)," Kejriwal tweeted after the meeting with the LG.

Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia said Baijal had assured them that he would speak to the bureaucrats.

However, the LG sent out a very strong statement after the meeting.

"The Lt Governor strongly condemned the incidents and termed them as most unfortunate. The Lt Governor noted that no government can fulfil its promises to the people if the employees feel demoralised and insecure.

"There is no place for violence in a democratic and civilised society. Steps need to be taken to remove the mistrust between the government employees and the elected government, so that the development of Delhi and public interest do not get adversely affected," an official statement from the LG's office said.

Meanwhile, a delegation of IAS officers working under the Delhi government met Union minister Jitendra Singh and put forward their grievances, following the alleged attack on Prakash.

After the meeting, Singh said, "We have heard the members of the delegation. We took cognisance of all the grievances and concerns raised by them and necessary steps will be taken."

The officers had submitted a memorandum, listing some of their demands, and necessary action would be taken on it, he added.

The BJP launched an attack against Kejriwal and said his decision to call the chief secretary at his residence and the alleged physical assault on him was a case of bullying and thuggery.

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