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HC allows AAP MLAs to move EC to summon witness in Office of Profit case

New Delhi: The Delhi High Court today allowed 20 Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) legislators, facing allegations of having held offices of profit, to move the Election Commission (EC) for permission to summon witnesses and asked the poll panel to decide it as per the law.

Delhi High Court today allowed 20 Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) legislators, facing allegations of having held offices of profit

A bench of Justices Sanjiv Khanna and Chander Shekhar had on August 16 issued a “draft order” along these lines, which was finalised today after both the EC and the MLAs consented to it.

The order came after conclusion of arguments on the pleas moved by the AAP MLAs seeking directions to the EC to permit them to cross-examine the person who had complained to the poll panel alleging that the legislators were holding offices of profit when they were appointed as Parliamentary Secretaries to various state ministers.

The MLAs had also sought that the Secretary General of the Legislative Assembly and the concerned officers from the administration and accounts departments and the state’s Law Ministry be summoned as witnesses to prove that the legislators did not hold an ‘office-of-profit’.

The court did not issue any direction on the plea to cross-examine the complainant as the EC had earlier said it was not relying on his complaint.

The 20 MLAs, including Kailash Gehlot, had moved the High Court seeking a clarification of its March 23 order so that they can summon Delhi government officials as witnesses. The High Court in its judgment had termed the poll panel’s recommendation as “vitiated” and “bad in law” and directed it to hear the issue afresh.

In the proceedings before the EC, the MLAs, represented by advocates Manish Vashisht and Sameer Vashisht, had said that they should be allowed to cross-examine the complainants and also summon witnesses.

The poll panel, however, had said that the high court’s order clearly meant that only oral arguments were to be heard.

The March order had come on the legislators’ pleas challenging their disqualification on grounds of holding offices-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 done soon after they were elected to the Delhi Assembly.

In September 2016, the High Court had ruled against their appointment as parliamentary secretaries. The EC had on January 19 this year recommended the disqualification of 20 AAP MLAs.

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

Apart from Gahlot, the other MLAs include Alka Lamba, Adarsh Shastri, Sanjeev Jha, Rajesh Gupta, Vijendra Garg, Praveen Kumar, Sharad Kumar, Madan Lal, Shiv Charan Goyal, Sarita Singh, Naresh Yadav, Rajesh Rishi.

AAP legislators Anil Kumar, Som Dutt, Avtar Singh, Sukhvir Singh Dala, Manoj Kumar, Nitin Tyagi and Jarnail Singh were also disqualified.

PTI

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