Office Of Profit Case: Plea To Summon Witnesses Referred To Larger Bench

New Delhi: 

The Delhi High Court on Tuesday referred to a larger bench a plea by some Aam Aadmi Party MLAs challenging an election commission decision disallowing them to cross-examine the person who accused them of holding ‘office-of-profit’ for their appointment as Parliamentary Secretaries.

The MLAs, including Kailash Gehlot, have also sought that they be allowed to summon some Delhi government officials as witnesses.

Justice V K Rao, before whom the petitions were listed for hearing, said the pleas were seeking clarification of the High Court’s March 23 decision setting aside the poll panel’s disqualification of 20 AAP MLAs for holding office-of-profit and therefore, it has to be heard by the same division bench which had passed that order.

The High Court in its March 23 judgment had termed the poll panel’s recommendation as “vitiated” and “bad in law” and had directed it to hear the issue afresh.

The MLAs, represented by advocates Manish Vashisht and Sameer Vashisht, have claimed that this means that they should be allowed to cross-examine the complainant, advocate Prashant Patel, and also summon witnesses.

The Election Commission (EC), however, contended that the court’s order clearly meant that only oral arguments were to be heard.

The single-judge bench, thereafter, referred the matter for listing on August 2 before the same bench of justices Sanjiv Khanna and Chander Shekhar which had delivered the March 23 verdict.

The March order had come on the legislators’ pleas challenging their disqualification for holding office-of-profit.

The MLAs were accused of holding offices-of-profit as they were appointed parliamentary secretaries to ministers in the Delhi government in March 2015. This was soon after they were elected to the Delhi Assembly.

In September 2016, the Delhi High Court had ruled against their appointment as parliamentary secretaries, after hearing their pleas on a daily basis since February 7.

The high court had on January 24 refused to stay the centre’s notification disqualifying them, but had restrained the poll panel from taking any “precipitate measures” such as announcing dates for bypolls to fill the vacancies.

The EC had on January 19 recommended the disqualification of 20 AAP MLAs. They included Alka Lamba, Adarsh Shastri, Sanjeev Jha, Rajesh Gupta, Kailash Gahlot, Vijendra Garg, Praveen Kumar, Sharad Kumar, Madan Lal, Shiv Charan Goyal, Sarita Singh, Naresh Yadav, Rajesh Rishi.

The other disqualified legislators were Anil Kumar, Som Dutt, Avtar Singh, Sukhvir Singh Dala, Manoj Kumar, Nitin Tyagi and Jarnail Singh. President Ram Nath Kovind had accepted the EC’s opinion the next day.

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