New Delhi : In a major embarrassment to the Aam Aadmi Party, President Pranab Mukherjee on Monday withheld Delhi government's bill to exempt 21 parliamentary secretaries from their disqualification as MLAs because of the illegality of holding two offices of profit at once. The Constitution prohibits legislators or parliamentarians from holding any positions with monetary or other benefit. This clause, known as office of profit is aimed at reducing conflict-of-interest situations for public representatives. Rashtrapati Bhavan sources said the Union home and law ministries told the President the Delhi government bill allowing the MLAs’ appointment as parliamentary secretaries and exempting them from office-of-profit regulations retrospectively violated existing laws.
A Delhi lawyer had sent a petition to the President's office, after the state cabinet cleared the proposal keeping parliamentary secretaries out of the office-of-profit purview on June 19. Prashant Patel, based at Karkardooma Court, filed the plea asking the President to take action against the creation of 21 "unconstitutional" posts by the Delhi government. Reacting to the development, AAP convenor Arvind Kejriwal took to Twitter and lambasted PM Modi. The 21 AAP MLAs had filed their replies to the Election Commission in response to a show-cause notice, on why they should not be disqualified for occupying offices of profit in violation of the Constitution.
An organisation called the Rashtriya Mukti Morcha had petitioned the Delhi High Court, contending that these 21 legislators enjoy the status and perks of ministers including office space and official cars, which is a misuse of the taxpayer's money. The PIL alleges that these appointments are "unconstitutional, illegal and without jurisdiction" and should be cancelled, pointing that the Delhi Government can have a maximum of seven ministers.
It also contends that along with seven ministers in Kejriwal's Cabinet, these 21 people with minister status exceed that limit. When the Parliamentary Secretaries were appointed, the AAP Government had said that they would facilitate smooth government functioning, but made it clear they would not receive any remuneration or perk of any kind, which would become a burden on the exchequer.
The order, however, permits them to use government transport for official purposes and has earmarked space in the ministers' offices to help them in official work. The petition argues that the Chief Minister has "no power, jurisdiction or authority" to administer oath of office to the Parliamentary Secretaries. A petition has alleged that 21 legislators occupied offices of profit in violation of the Constitution.