After Kejriwal's embarrassing apologies, Delhi HC saves AAP MLAs' week

Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal and Deputy CM Manish Sisodia with MLAs celebrating the judgment of Delhi High Court at Kejriwal's residence in New Delhi. Photo: PTI
A jubilant Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Friday hailed the Delhi High Court order setting aside the disqualification of 20 AAP MLAs in the "politically sensitive" office-of-profit case and said it was a "victory of truth", even as the Congress vowed to keep on fighting the matter afresh.

Hours after the high court order, Delhi Assembly Speaker Ram Niwas Goel allowed the MLAs to enter the House and take part in the ongoing budget session, following which 10 AAP MLAs attended the session amid chants of 'Bharat Mata Ki Jai' by fellow legislators.

AAP MLAs Nitin Tyagi, Alka Lamba, Som Dutt, Rajesh Gupta and Rajesh Rishi were among those who attended the budget session, after their disqualification was set aside.

In a major relief to the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), the Delhi High Court today set aside the disqualification of its 20 MLAs in the office-of-profit case and directed the Election Commission of India (ECI) to hear the matter afresh.

A bench of justices Sanjiv Khanna and Chander Shekhar quashed the Centre's notification disqualifying the AAP MLAs, saying the Election Commission's recommendation against the legislators was "bad in law" and "vitiated".

Sending the MLAs' plea back to the ECI, the bench said that there was violation of natural justice and no oral hearing was given to the MLAs before disqualifying them as legislators of the Delhi Assembly.

"It is a victory of truth. The elected representatives were wrongfully disqualified. The high court has given justice to the people of Delhi. It is their victory. Congratulations to the people of Delhi," Kejriwal tweeted minutes after the HC order.

Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal and Deputy CM Manish Sisodia with MLAs celebrating the judgment of Delhi High Court at Kejriwal's residence in New Delhi. Photo: PTI

सत्य की जीत हुई। दिल्ली के लोगों द्वारा चुने हुए प्रतिनिधियों को ग़लत तरीक़े से बर्खास्त किया गया था। दिल्ली हाई कोर्ट ने दिल्ली के लोगों को न्याय दिया। दिल्ली के लोगों की बड़ी जीत। दिल्ली के लोगों को बधाई। https://t.co/eDayHziHSn

Arvind Kejriwal (@ArvindKejriwal) March 23, 2018
1. EC unlikely to challenge Delhi HC order quashing

The Election Commission today indicated it is unlikely to challenge in the Supreme Court the Delhi High Court order quashing its decision to disqualify 20 AAP MLAs for holding office of profit, saying there was no precedent for the poll panel to do so.

However, Chief Election Commissioner O P Rawat refrained from making any comment on the high court order.

"Let us first go through the certified copy of the order. Then the secretariat will decide on taking action," he told PTI.

He refused to say anything further, noting that the poll panel does not comment on a court order.

Sources in the commission said the EC has in the past not appealed against any order of a high court relating to a reference matter.

1) Development work will speed up now: AAP MLAs after HC relief

The AAP MLAs said today that the development work will speed up in their respective constituencies after the Delhi High Court order.

Kondli MLA Manoj Kumar said: "Development works were being affected in my constituency since my disqualification in the alleged office-of-profit case. Officers were not even picking up my phone."

The Chandni Chowk MLA, Alka Lamba, said that due to her disqualification, she could not become a part of the budgetary process of the government and works were affected.

Transport Minister Kailash Gahlot, who had also been disqualified, said: "We had complete faith in the judiciary from day one. If EC would give proper hearing to us, we would not need to move to court."

 

2) Suspension of BJP's O P Sharma from Delhi Assembly revoked: The Delhi Assembly on Friday revoked suspension of BJP MLA O P Sharma, after a proposal moved by AAP MLA Jitender Singh Tomar was passed with voice vote.

Sharma was suspended by the Speaker earlier this week for making alleged derogatory remarks in the House.

Referring to the Delhi High Court order setting aside disqualification of 20 AAP MLAs in an office-of-profit case, Tomar said that today was a special day and that Sharma's suspension should be revoked.

3) Kejriwal says 'it is a victory of truth': Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Friday said "it is a victory of truth" after the Delhi High Court set aside the Centre's notification disqualifying 20 AAP MLAs in an office of profit case.

"It is a victory of truth. The elected representatives were wrongfully disqualified. The high court has given justice to the people of Delhi. It is their victory. Congratulations to the people of Delhi," Kejriwal tweeted. 

CM @ArvindKejriwal is congratulating residents as Delhi High Court quashes opinion of Election Commission on 20 AAP MLAs who were disqualified, observes that principle of 'Natural Justice' not upheld, sets aside disqualification. pic.twitter.com/ipxNocDvAp

— AAP (@AamAadmiParty) March 23, 2018

4) AAP MLAs shout 'Bharat Mata Ki Jai': The AAP MLAs shouted "Bharat Mata Ki Jai" in the Assembly after the order. Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia, too, welcomed the order as he joined the AAP legislators in thumping tables in the Delhi Assembly during its ongoing Budget session. 

5) EC to hear AAP MLAs plea again: After the Delhi HC's relief to the party in the office of profit case, AAP leader Saurabh Bharadwaj told news agencies that the AAP MLAs were not given a chance "to put their point, so now the court has given them a chance to do that". The AAP leader added that the "EC would hear their plea again". 

MLAs were not given a chance to put their point, so now the court has given them a chance to do that. The EC will hear their plea again: Saurabh Bhardwaj, AAP on relief to AAP MLAs. #Delhi pic.twitter.com/WO7W12llyX

— ANI (@ANI) March 23, 2018

6) Petitioner in AAP MLAs case says 'no setback': Prashant Patel, the petitioner in the 20 AAP MLAs’ disqualification case, told news agencies that court "has said that this case will be reopened", adding that this was not a setback for him. "I had just raised a constitutional issue," said Patel.

The court has said that this case will be reopened. I had just raised a constitutional issue, there is no setback for me: Prashant Patel, petitioner in the 20 AAP MLAs disqualification case #Delhi pic.twitter.com/Ka5tLfGzL3

— ANI (@ANI) March 23, 2018

7) 20 AAP MLAs to attend Budget session: Delhi Assembly Speaker Ram Niwas Goel on Friday said he will allow the 20 AAP MLAs, embroiled in the office of profit controversy, to attend the ongoing Budget session in the wake of the high court setting aside their disqualification in the case.

A Bench of Justices Sanjiv Khanna and Chander Shekhar said that the EC's recommendation was bad in law and remanded their plea back to the poll panel, which will hear it afresh. 

8) Delhi HC says EC 'violated natural justice': Terming the EC's recommendation on disqualification as "vitiated", the Bench said that there was violation of natural justice and no oral hearing was given to the MLAs before disqualifying them as legislators of the Delhi Assembly. 

9) HC asks EC to 're-examine the factual matrix': In its 79-page order, the Bench said that the opinion of the EC was quashed for "violation of principle of natural justice namely failure to give oral hearing and opportunity to address arguments on merits of the issue".  

"The order of remand is passed to the Election Commission of India to hear arguments and thereafter decide all the important and seminal issues, like what is meant by expression office-of-profit held under the government...," the court said.  

It asked the EC to "re-examine the factual matrix to decide whether the petitioners (AAP MLAs) had incurred disqualification on appointment as parliamentary secretaries, without being influenced by the earlier order or observations on the said aspect in this order". 

10.  MLAs approached HC challenging disqualification

During the arguments, the MLAs had requested the court to remand their case back to the poll panel with a direction to hear the matter afresh. They had approached the high court challenging their disqualification after President Ram Nath Kovind gave his assent to the EC's recommendation.

Backing its recommendation to the President for AAP MLAs' disqualification, the poll panel had submitted that the legislators cannot claim that they were not holding office-of-profit. It had also claimed that their pleas were not maintainable and were liable to be dismissed.

Following is the chronology of events in the office-of-profit case in which the Delhi High Court today set aside the disqualification of 20 Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) MLAs and directed the Election Commission (EC) to hear the matter afresh:

*Mar 13, 2015: The Arvind Kejriwal govt passes an order to appoint 21 MLAs as Parliamentary Secretaries.

*Jun 19: The appointment was challenged by advocate Prashant Patel who seeks their disqualification with President Pranab Mukherjee.

*Jun 24: Legislative Assembly passes the Delhi Member of Legislative Assembly (Removal of Disqualification) (Amendment Bill), 2015 excluding Parliamentary Secretaries from 'Office of Profit' with retrospective effect.

*Jun 13, 2016: President Mukherjee refuses to give his assent to the Bill.

*Jun 25: Centre returns 14 bills passed by Delhi government, including the Bill on Parliamentary secretaries.

*Jul 14-21: EC gives hearing to 21 AAP MLAs.

*Sep 8, 2016: The Delhi HC sets aside an order of the Kejriwal government appointing 21 of the party's MLAs as parliamentary secretaries.

*Sep 8: EC issues a show cause notice to 21 AAP MLAs.

*Jan 6, 2017: Jarnail Singh, AAP MLA from Rajouri Garden, resigns.

*Jun 24: EC rejects pleas of AAP MLAs to drop 'Office of Profit' case.

*Aug : The 20 AAP MLAs move HC against the EC's June 24 order.

*Oct 9: EC issues notice to AAP MLAs, seeks explanation.

*Jan 19, 2018: EC recommends to President Ram Nath Kovind disqualification.

*Jan 20: President Kovind approves the EC's recommendation of disqualifying 20 AAP MLAs.

*Jan 24 : MLAs moves High Court seeking quashing of the decision.

*Feb 7: The HC fixes day-today hearing of MLAs' pleas.

* Feb 28: The HC reserves order on AAP MLAs' pleas.

*Mar 23: The HC quashes notification that had led to disqualification of 20 AAP MLAs.


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