The 21 AAP MLAs were appointed Parliamentary Secretaries to several ministers in the Delhi government in March last year. This was challenged by Prashant Patel who petitioned the President of India, Pranab Mukherjee, in June last year. However, the AAP government in Delhi passed the Delhi Member of Legislative Assembly (Removal of Disqualification) Amendment Bill 2015, excluding Parliamentary Secretaries from “office of profit” with retrospective effect, but only to be turned down by the President from giving his assent and the office of Parliamentary Secretary in Delhi is now deemed unconstitutional.
“They (MLAs) are not being able to come up with any concrete defence to prove that their office was not of profit. Their agenda is just to buy time and stretch the hearings longer so that they get more time from the Election Commission,” Patel told The Sunday Guardian.
Seven to eight of the 21 AAP MLAs have told the EC that they do not have money to hire lawyers, Patel said. “How laughable is that? The MLAs are saying that they do not have money to hire lawyers even when they get hefty salaries. They had asked the EC to provide them with legal aid, but when I objected to it, the EC overturned their request,” Patel said.
According to EC sources, on the next date of hearing (29 August), the MLAs have been given a last chance to present their side of the case, either with a lawyer or they will have to present their case on their own.
Madan Lal, AAP MLA from Kasturba Nagar and Parliamentary Secretary to the Ministry of Vigilance, Delhi government, rubbished the allegations of buying time. He said, “Most of the advocates have presented their arguments and the EC hearing requires specialised advocates and they are very expensive. Some MLAs are not being able to hire them because of their poor condition as they are not earning much. Thus, we had asked for extra time, and I do not think that amounts to buying time.”
Prashant Patel has also accused the AAP of violating the basic principles of the Constitution and said, “The rule says that according to the 91st Amendment to the Constitution, only 10% of the total MLAs can become ministers, and moreover the law that the Delhi government made to protect the MLAs has been turned down by the President. Thus, going forward, they would not have any further ground to appeal anywhere in case the EC recommends their disqualification to the President,” Patel added.
Naresh Yadav, AAP MLA from Mehrauli, and also a Parliamentary Secretary to the Department of Labour, Delhi government, did not comment on the case as the matter is sub-judice, but said that he believes that the EC will give justice to them as they are not drawing any profit from their office as Parliamentary Secretaries.