The Election Commission of India (ECI) has given 21 Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) legislators in Delhi till October 17 to explain why they should not be disqualified from the assembly after their appointment as Parliamentary Secretaries.
In the notice issued on Monday, the ECI also told petitioner Prashant Patel to submit his rejoinder to the 21 AAP lawmakers' reply by October 21.
The AAP legislators had earlier written to the Election Commission requesting for more time to file their replies, following which the extension till October 17 has been given.
"It may be noted that if no reply is received by the aforesaid date, it will be presumed that you have nothing to say in this matter and the Commission will take appropriate action without any further reference to you," the EC notice said.
After coming to power in February 2015, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal's government appointed 21 party lawmakers as the Parliamentary Secretaries, saying this would facilitate smooth functioning of the government but would not cause any burden on the exchequer.
The Delhi High Court in September quashed the appointment of 21 Parliamentary Secretaries. The AAP, however, refused to comment over the issue and maintained that it was an ongoing process.
After the notice, Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Thursday reiterated its demand of "disqualification" of the 21 AAP legislators in "office of profit" matter.
"It is already proven that they (AAP MLAs) were holding office of profit so we are demanding that their membership must be cancelled," Delhi BJP chief Satish Upadhyay told IANS.
Congress legal affairs in-charge, Aman Panwar told IANS that the 21 AAP MLAs were illegally appointed as parliamentary secretaries in the Delhi government.
"Under the law, they must be disqualified," he demanded.
In June 2015, a major row was sparked off on the issue of 'Office of Profit' after President Pranab Mukherjee rejected the Delhi government's bill to exclude the post of Parliamentary Secretary from the 'Office of Profit' definition.
The Delhi government sought through the bill an amendment to the Delhi Members of Legislative Assembly (Removal of Disqualification) Act, 1997, so as to exclude the post of Parliamentary Secretary from the definition of 'Office of Profit'.
The AAP has maintained that none of the Parliamentary Secretaries was given "pecuniary benefits" and the appointment of the party legislators as Parliamentary Secretaries did not amount to creation of a "public office".
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