In a major victory for Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and a major strike at the Election Commission, 20 lawmakers in Delhi from Mr Kejriwal’s party have been reinstated by the Delhi High Court. They had been declared disqualified in January by the Election Commission; the recommendation was accepted by President Ram Nath Kovind after they were accused of holding offices of profit – that means they broke basic rules by holding positions with the Delhi government that allowed them perks.
“Truth has won. Elected representatives of Delhi were illegally disqualified. High court has given justice to the people of Delhi,” tweeted Mr Kejriwal, who has earlier described the disqualification of his legislators as masterminded by the central government, with whom he has deep and long-running hostility.
सत्य की जीत हुई। दिल्ली के लोगों द्वारा चुने हुए प्रतिनिधियों को ग़लत तरीक़े से बर्खास्त किया गया था। दिल्ली हाई कोर्ट ने दिल्ली के लोगों को न्याय दिया। दिल्ली के लोगों की बड़ी जीत। दिल्ली के लोगों को बधाई। https://t.co/eDayHziHSn
— Arvind Kejriwal (@ArvindKejriwal) March 23, 2018
Today’s order in favour of the Aam Aadmi Party or AAP creates history- it is the first time in two decades that an Election Commission decision to disqualify a legislator has been struck down. The order comes as the Election Commission’s autonomy and fairness has been questioned over a series of decisions, including its move last year to let Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh vote separately; for years, the states had voted together and opposition parties alleged that the de-linking was done to allow the ruling BJP more time to announce policies and schemes that would influence voters in its favour.
The Election Commission, the court said today, violated basic procedure by not hearing each MLA’s arguments. “Opinion of Election Commission of India (given to the President of India) dated January 19, 2018, is vitiated and bad in law for failure to comply with principles of natural justice,” the court said.
The lawmakers had contended that their attempts to explain their side of the story were stomped out by the Commission. After the court order today, Chief Election Commissioner Om Prakash Rawat refused to comment on the setback, saying, “We usually don’t comment on court verdicts.”
The 20 lawmakers were disqualified because the Election Commission said they illegally held government posts. According to the rules, elected representatives are not allowed to hold government posts as they draw a salary from the government. Additional jobs are considered “profit”. AAP says the jobs – as parliamentary secretaries – carried no remuneration, which was why no law had been broken.