The stage could be set for a mini-election in Delhi, with President Pranab Mukherjee on Monday rejecting a bill passed by the Delhi assembly last year seeking to exempt 21 AAP MLAs appointed as parliamentary secretaries from the purview of `office of profit' criteria. The President's decision is a major setback to the Kejriwal government and leaves the AAP MLAs a few steps from possible disqualification. Section 15 of the government of NCT of Delhi Act, 1991 says a person shall not remain an MLA if he or she holds any office of profit under the Centre or government of a state or UT.
The legislator can escape disqualification only if the office is declared -by law made by Parliament, state legislature or UT -as a post that does not attract loss of membership. The fate of the MLAs will now be decided by the Election Commission that is considering a petition seeking their disqualification. Elaborating on the Presi dent's grounds for rejec tion of the bill, a home ministry official said the law was clear that what constitutes an "office of profit" and what does not must be pre-defined.
"Applying exemptions with retrospective effect is unconstitutional," the official said. The view in official circles is that with the President rejecting the bill, the post of parliamentary secretary is clearly an `office of profit' and the disqualification of the AAP MLAs is all but a foregone conclusion. While such a development will follow only after the EC completes its proceedings on a petition seeking the disqualification of the MLAs, Delhi could be headed for a major political showdown that will test the electoral strength of AAP, BJP and Congress.
If 21 bypolls take place, they will be seen as a referendum on the AAP government that enjoys a brute majority of 67 seats in an assembly of 70. The decision of the Kejriwal government to deal with its problem of plenty by accommodating MLAs as parliamentary secretaries without first shielding them from the office of profit law seems to be rebounding on the party . The rejection of the bill will not affect the ongoing proceedings in the EC on a petition filed by lawyer Prashant Patel. "Just as court cases go on independent of each other, the EC will continue to hear the petition...the end result, however, may well be the same, that is, disqualification of the 21 MLAs," said an official. I dont understand how this man method of working. He is acting as an Idiot. Not as an IITan
Sources in the EC said the replies of the 21 AAP MLAs to its notice had been forwarded to the petitioner for a `rejoinder'. "Once the petitioner's rejoinder is received, a call may be taken on conducting a hearing, wherein the petitioner and defending parties will get a chance to present their argument before the full Commission. The EC, after hearing all parties, will give its verdict on whether or not the AAP MLAs must be disqualified on grounds of holding `office of profit'," an EC functionary told TOI. It could take EC a few months to come out with its ruling in case it decides to conduct a hearing.
In the event of disqualification of the AAP MLAs, by-elec tion to nearly one--third of the seats currently held by the ruling party will be necessitated.This will be like a mid-term mini-election, and will test whether AAP sustains the popularity that catapulted it to a landslide victory in the February 2015 assembly polls. For BJP and Congress, it will present an opportunity to regain lost ground and get a voice in the state assembly . As of now, BJP has just three MLAs while Congress has none.