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20 facing axe, AAP chops EC

Arvind Kejriwal. Stock photo/ Shutterstock

New Delhi: An activist-lawyer has said the Election Commission has recommended the disqualification of as many as 20 AAP legislators in Delhi for holding offices of profit.

The claim not only sucked chief election commissioner and former Gujarat chief secretary A.K. Joti into a storm a few days before his retirement but also ignited a scurry to the court, a flurry of name-calling and a warm-up for bypolls.

The poll panel refused to comment on a sub judice matter, neither confirming nor denying the recommendation claim. But an AAP leader bluntly told the commission not to act as "the letter box of the PMO".

Hindutva activist and lawyer Prashant Patel Umrao said the commission had made the recommendation to President Ram Nath Kovind after concluding that the MLAs violated the law by acting as parliamentary secretaries in 2015-16.

In 2015, then President Pranab Mukherjee had referred a complaint from Umrao to the poll panel. The Arvind Kejriwal government then got the Assembly to pass an amendment exempting the post of parliamentary secretary from those classified as offices of profit. But Mukherjee rejected it, and Delhi High Court subsequently quashed the appointments.

The AAP had contended that since the appointments were not valid, the poll panel's hearing for disqualifying the MLAs was infructuous.

The majority of the AAP, which had won 66 of the 70 seats in the Delhi Assembly, will not be affected if the 20 MLAs are disqualified.

The AAP rushed to Delhi High Court to push for last year's plea against the EC maintaining the case, but the judge did not provide immediate relief. The court has scheduled a hearing for Monday. If the MLAs are disqualified, it will be the first time that the post of parliamentary secretary will be inviting such action.

AAP spokesperson Saurabh Bharadwaj said the poll panel did not give the accused a chance to explain. "The EC seems to be working at the behest of the BJP government. It has lost all credibility. Chief election commissioner Joti is repaying Modiji's debt by mortgaging a constitutional body like the EC," he added.

"The EC should not be the letter box of the PMO. But that is the reality today," AAP leader Ashutosh tweeted.

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