President Ram Nath Kovind gives nod to disqualify 20 AAP lawmakers

New Delhi: President Ram Nath Kovind has accepted the recommendation of the Election Commission to disqualify 20 lawmakers of Delhi’s ruling Aam Aadmi Party. The Commission said the legislators violated the provisions of the Office of Profit, under which lawmakers cannot hold any post in the government that entitles them to perks or powers unless a law has been passed to exempt the posts.

Arvind Kejriwal’s party, which described the President’s order and “unconstitutional ” and “dangerous for democracy”, said it would go to the Supreme Court if need be. The high court will hear their appeal on Monday.

The disqualification of the 20 lawmakers, however, will not dent AAP’s majority in the Delhi assembly. AAP has 66 seats in the 70-member assembly. Its numbers will now be down to 46 seats, which is well past the half-way mark of 35.

The opposition Congress and the BJP have said Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal should quit on “moral grounds”. The BJP has four seats in the house, the Congress none. If a by-election is held on 20 seats, it would give both parties a chance to increase their tally.

After receiving the news, Delhi minister Gopal Rai said, “We had hoped to go to the President asking him to give us a chance to present ourselves. AAP will knock the doors of High Court and even the Supreme Court if need be”. Senior AAP leader Ashutosh said the President’s order was “unconstitutional and dangerous for democracy,” reported a news agency.

“AAP has been helped by BJP and the Election Commission in delaying the decision for over three weeks,” said Ajay Maken, whose party, the Congress, had sought the lawmakers’ disqualification from the Commission. “Had the decision come before December 22, these 20 legislators couldn’t have voted for the Rajya Sabha elections,” he added.

AAP legislators, who moved the Delhi High Court on Friday, did not get any interim relief. In September 2016, the court had cancelled the AAP government’s order appointing the legislators as parliamentary secretaries as it lacked the approval of the Lieutenant Governor, the administrative head of Delhi.

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