Launching a scathing attack on the BJP government, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal on Wednesday said that the refusal of assent to a bill to shield 21 MLAs of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) from the ‘office of profit’ rule was ‘purely political’.
In a press conference held in Delhi, Kejriwal cited precedents of previous governments employing more than one parliamentary secretary and wondered how similar posts under Congress and BJP rule were not considered "unconstitutional".
“What they do is legal, and when we do it, it is illegal,” Kejriwal said, before abruptly ending the press conference and rushing out without taking questions from reporters.
Watch the full video of his press conference here:
Targeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the issue yet again, Kejriwal said, "I want to request Modiji with folded hands not to trouble the people of Delhi. Your fight is with me. Beat me or take as much revenge as you want against me. But do not try to stop good work in Delhi which is being praised world-wide including by the UN."
In 1953, he said, Delhi had three parliamentray secretaries -- HKL Bhagat, Kumari Shanta Vasisth and Shiv Charan Dasgupta while governments headed by BJP's Sahib Singh Verma and Congress' Sheila Dikshit appointed a number of MLAs to the posts.
"Then it was constitutional and when we do it, it turns out to be unconstitutional. What is this, if not double standards ?" Kejriwal asked and went on to assert that the 21 Parliamentary Secretaries are "eyes, ears and hands" of the AAP government who have been tasked with important duties.
"They are highly qualified people in different fields, starting from MBA to engineering and not illiterates like in other parties. Mohalla Clinics are product of their hard work so is the mapping of schools," said Kejriwal.
As per the constitution, an MP or an MLA holding an office of profit can be disqualified under Article 102(1)(a). In order to avoid any conflict of interest arising out of such an arrangement and the probability of the official influencing the legislature an additional provision of Article 191(1)(a) was introduced. This has been reaffirmed by a number of Supreme Court judgements on the issue.
Meanwhile, the Congress stepped up its demand for disqualification of the 21 AAP MLAs and said not receiving salary alone did not shield them against provisions of 'office of profit' law.
"AAP has cried hoarse saying that these 21 MLAs/ Parliamentary secretaries received no salaries. As they clamber to save themselves, it appears AAP have not bothered to read Supreme Court's judgements which have clearly stated that office of profit is not deemed by salary alone," the party said in a commentary.
In the commentary posted on its website, the AICC insisted that the office of profit is determined by perks too.
"It is determined by perks, which undoubtedly these 21 MLAs were enjoying under Kejriwal s Government and at the cost of the Delhi tax-payer," it said in the commentary titled "Kejriwal has the 'Office', AAP MLAs enjoy the 'Profits'".
The party said that after winning 67 seats in the Delhi Assembly, Kejriwal had to accommodate many party colleagues in "positions of power".
Delhi BJP leader Vijender Gupta said the 21 MLAs must quit.
The AAP termed as "purely political" the refusal of assent to the bill by the President, saying it was part of BJP's ploy to trouble the Delhi government as Modi was "scared" of Kejriwal.
The party told a news conference that the President's decision, "based on the Centre's recommendation", was not on technical grounds "as being projected" as BJP and Congress too had appointed their lawmakers as parliamentary secretaries in Delhi and other states.
The Delhi government released an order dated May 7, 1997 through which the then BJP government under Sahib Singh had appointed Nand Kishore Garg as parliamentary secretary, AAP said and accused the ruling party at the Centre of "doublespeak".
Kejriwal tweeted, "Modi is only scared of AAP. He sees AAP everywhere - in the morning, evening, during daytime and in night."
Pandey claimed that earlier Supreme Court orders "make it clear" that a post will be considered office of profit only if monetary gains are involved and that AAP's parliamentary secretaries never drew salaries or allowances.
(With PTI inputs)
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