Arvind Kejriwal
Delhi Chief Minister Arvind KejriwalReuters file

President Ram Nath Kovind on Sunday, January 21, accepted the recommendation by the Election Commission to disqualify 20 legislators of Delhi Assembly belonging to the Aam Admi Party over the office of profit case. The President's decision will pave way for byelections in Delhi. 

"Having considered the matter in the light of the opinion expressed by the Election Commission, I, Ram Nath Kovind, President of India, in exercise of the powers... do here hold that the aforesaid 20 members of the Delhi legislative assembly stand disqualified from being members of the said assembly," read a notification issued by President's office to Aam Admi Party on Sunday.

The notification came as a response to the EC decision on Friday, January 19, to disqualify 20 AAP MLAs from the Delhi Assembly.

According to the EC, the AAP lawmakers held the offices of profit, as they were appointed parliament secretaries, between March 2015 and September 2016.

However, numbers in the house, show that the AAP government in Delhi won't be affected much with the ouster of its MLAs as it holds a higher margin of 66 MLAs in the 70-member legislative assembly.

AAP convener and Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal lashed out at the opposition and tweeted, "These people lodged false cases against our party members, forced a CBI raid on me, yet they couldn't get anything of it."

He then wrote, "Now, they got our MLA's ousted."

The 20 MLAs had moved the Delhi High Court challenging the EC order on Friday itself. But the court didn't offer any interim relief to the AAP and posted the matter for hearing on January 22.

On Sunday, AAP's Gopal Rai said the party will approach the apex court: "We had hoped to go to the President asking him to give us a chance to present ourselves. Now we received this news. AAP will knock the doors of HC and even SC if need be."

Earlier, the president had refused to meet Deputy Chief Minister Manish Sisodia and the disqualified AAP MLAs who sought permission for a meeting on the matter, NDTV reported.

Saurabh Bharadwaj AAP
AAP leader Saurabh Bhardwaj talks to the press at Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal's residence in New Delhi on Jan 3, 2018.IANS

After coming to power in 2015, the AAP government in Delhi had passed an amendment to the Delhi Members of Legislative Act, 1997, and had asked the EC to exempt the parliament secretaries from the definition of office of profit.  

In the year 2016, Congress had also moved the EC as it sought the removal of legislators holding the post of parliament secretaries.

Referring to the disqualification of 20 MLAs, the Congress has now alleged that BJP and EC were involved in delaying the decision. Party leader Ajay Maken complained, "If the decision had come before December 22, these 20 MLAs would've been disqualified and couldn't have voted for the Rajya Sabha elections."

Reacting to the allegation by Congress, BJP's Meenakshi Lekhi clarified, "The fact that their Rajya Sabha nomination happened means EC was working at its own pace and there was no pressure. These are constitutional bodies whose mandate is to obey law."