In a setback to the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP), the Election Commission (EC) has rejected pleas of 21 party legislators, who were appointed Parliamentary Secretaries, to drop the "office of profit" case against them.
In its order, the EC on Friday said the MLAs "did hold de facto posts of Parliamentary Secretaries from March 13, 2015 to September 8, 2016".
The 21 AAP legislators had approached the poll panel to drop the disqualification case as their appointments were already set aside by the Delhi High Court.
Out of these 21 legislators, Jarnail Singh had resigned from Rajouri Garden in January to contest the Punjab Assembly elections.
AAP's spokesperson Saurabh Bharadwaj on Saturday said the party respects the orders of the high court as well as the Election Commission.
"The EC's recent order should not be misinterpreted. The Delhi High Court had declared the very order of appointment of 21 Parliamentary Secretaries as null and void," Bharadwaj said.
Therefore "there was no question of hearing a petition for the office which never existed" Bhardwaj said on the willingness of the poll panel to still continue hearing on the petition in the case.
In 2015, the AAP government passed an amendment to the Delhi Members of Legislative Assembly (Removal of Disqualification) Act, 1997, to exempt the post of Parliamentary Secretary from the definition of office of profit with retrospective effect.
However, President Pranab Mukherjee refused to give his assent to it. Following which the appointments were set aside by the Delhi High Court in September 2016.
On September 8, the Delhi High court quashed the notification issued by the AAP government in March 2015, by which it appointed 21 of its MLAs as Parliamentary Secretaries.
The High Court declared their appointment illegal, saying that the order had been passed "without concurrence/approval of the Lieutenant Governor".