New Delhi: The Delhi government Bill to exclude the post of Parliamentary Secretary from the office of profit has been refused assent by the President, raising questions over the fate of 21 AAP MLAs, who have been appointed to the posts.
The refusal puts a question mark over the membership of 21 Aam Aadmi Party MLAs, who have been appointed Parliamentary Secretaries by the Arvind Kejriwal government.
Petitions have been filed with the President seeking disqualification of the these MLAs on the ground that they occupied office of profit in violation of Constitution.
Acting as a quasi judicial body, the Election Commission to whom the President referred the issue has sought replies of the MLAs.
Meanwhile, the Delhi Government had sought an amendment to the Delhi Members of Legislative Assembly (Removal of Disqualification) Act, 1997.
Through the Bill, the AAP government wanted “retrospective” exemption for the parliamentary secretaries from disqualification provisions.
The Bill was forwarded by Lt Governor Najeeb Jung to the Centre, which in turn was sent to the President with its comments.
However, the President did not give his assent to the Bill, official sources said.
On March 13, 2015, Kejriwal had passed an order appointing the 21 party MLAs as Parliamentary Secretaries. Subsequently, the AAP government had sought an amendment to the Delhi Members of Legislative Assembly (Removal of Disqualification) Act, 1997.
Questions have been raised over their appointment by the opposition.
The Lt Governor had said the office of parliamentary secretary is defined as an “office of profit if one looks at the statutes of Delhi” and that as per the GNCT Act, the city can have only one parliamentary secretary attached to the office of the Chief Minister.
The 21 MLAs include Alka Lamba, Jarnail Singh, Adarsh Shastri and Rajesh Gupta.
Following the AAP government’s move, Prashant Patel, a lawyer, petitioned the Election Commission seeking disqualification of the MLAs.
The EC had earlier issued notices asking them to explain how their appointment as parliamentary secretaries does not fall under office of profit and why their Assembly membership should not be cancelled.
The 21 AAP MLAs, facing the risk of disqualification from the Assembly on office of profit issue, have sought a personal hearing before the Election Commission.
In their response to the poll body, the MLAs have said that parliamentary secretary is a post without any remuneration or power. A senior party functionary maintained that there was no “pecuniary benefit” associated with the post.