Appointment of Parl Secys flagrant violation of Constitution: EC

In what could not be music for AAP, the Election Commission observed that the 21 MLAs were appointed as Parliamentary Secretaries just “satiate the demand for executive office and to oblige them” through “flagrant violation” of Constitution.

Dealing with the petition seeking disqualification of these MPs over charges of holding office of profit, the EC said 40% of the MLAs in a 70-member Assembly were holding government positions after the appointment of Parliamentary Secretaries.

Twenty-eight MLAs — seven ministers and 21 Parliamentary Secretaries — or 40% of the lawmakers were working for Delhi government at one point of time, which is “flagrant violation” of Article 239AA of the Constitution that permits a maximum of 10% percent MLAs to be appointed as Ministers. The Delhi High Court setting aside these appointments on the ground that the order was not sent to the Lt Governor of Delhi and was thus in violation of the mandate of Article 239AA, which deals with the legislature of Delhi.

The Election Commission was very critical of the AAP government, saying it attempted to bypass Constitutional provisions of “paramount importance” by passing the order to appointed Parliamentary Secretaries to Ministers, “which was an office that was never created by any law or order” of the Delhi government. Moreover, the roles and responsibilities of the office holders were “never spelt out in any manner”.

“The totality of these circumstances clearly brings out the larger scheme of things wherein these respondents were appointed as Parliamentary Secretaries de hors the Rules and Regulations and even the Constitutional provisions in order to satiate the demand for executive office and to oblige them with office,” it said.

The EC went on to say, in such circumstances there is no doubt over the fact that such a large scale appointment of Parliamentary Secretaries had not only jeopardised the functioning of these individual MLAs but also the entire Assembly. “It is essential to keep this fact and situation in mind while deciding” on the petition against the MLAs.

According to the EC recommendation, which was part of the notification disqualifying these MLAs, the objective behind incorporating a disqualification for holding an office of profit under the Government is not to prevent the representatives of the people from earning profit by their private ventures but to prevent a conflict of interest in their functioning as lawmakers.

Even as AAP argued that its MLAs did not take any remuneration, the EC said undue importance on the evidence of profit and actual potential of pecuniary benefits is capable of rendering these Constitutional provisions “toothless and pale”.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Jan 22, 2018)

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