In a relief to Aam Admi Party, President Ram Nath Kovind has rejected a petition to disqualify 27 of its Delhi MLAs for allegedly holding office of profit by being appointed as chairpersons of Rogi Kalyan Samitis attached to various city government hospitals.
The President signed the order on October 15 dismissing the plea based on an opinion given by the Election Commission on July 10.
The EC had found no merit in the plea, moved on June 21, 2016 by Vibhor Anand, which had claimed that the 27 AAP MLAs were in a position to "interfere" in a day-to-day administration of these hospitals and hence held office of profit.
The petition had also claimed that in May, 2015 the Delhi health minister had issued directions to all government hospitals to provide office space to chairperson of the committee, which also attracted provision of the office of profit law.
"It is observed that the office of chairperson in Rogi Kalyan Samitis (Patient Welfare Committees) in hospitals of government of National Capital Terrirory of Delhi falls under the exempted category as per item 14 of the Schedule of the Delhi Members of Legislative Assembly (Removal of Disqualification) Act, 1997, and therefore this Commission opines that the respondents are not disqualified for holding Office of Profit," the EC had said in its opinion rendered to the President.
In its opinion, the EC also said that 'it is pertinent to note that while it is an established fact that some of the respondents have never been appointed to the said office, the finding that the said office falls under exempted category makes it redundant to comment on the cause of non-disqualification individually'.
Such pleas are sent to the President who forwards it to the EC. The EC then gives its opinion based on which the President has to issue orders.
According to an order issued by the Delhi government's health and family welfare department on April 26, the ‘Rogi Kalyan Samitis' are advisory in nature which will assist health facilities, develop and customise strategies among others.
It stated that each 'Assembly Rogi Kalyan Samiti' will be provided Rs 3 lakh per annum as grand-in aid.
'Now, therefore, having considered the matter in the light of the opinion expressed by the Election Commission of India, I, Ram Nath Kovind, President of India, in exercise of the powers conferred upon me under section l5(4) of the Government of National Capital Territory of Delhi Act, do hereby hold that the petition dated June 21, 2016, filed by Shri Vibhor Anand, on the question of alleged disqualification of Ms Alka Lamba and 26 other Members of Delhi Legislative Assembly, is not maintainable,' the order signed by the President said.
The 27 MLAs against whom the petition was filed are: Alka Lamba (Chandni Chowk), Shiv Charan Goel (Moti Nagar), Jagdeep Singh (Hari Nagar), Bandana Kumari (Shalimar Bagh), Ajesh Yadav (Badli), S K Bagga (Krishna Nagar), Jitendra Singh Tomar (Tri Nagar), Rajesh Rishi (Janak Puri), Rajesh Gupta (Wazirpur), Ram Niwas Goel (Shahdara), Vishesh Ravi (Karol Bagh), Jarnail Singh (Rajauri Garden), Naresh Yadav (Mehrauli).
Others are, Nitin Tyagi (Laxmi Nagar), Ved Prakash (Bawana), Somnath Bharti (Malviya Nagar), Pankaj Pushkar (Timarpur), Rajendra Pal Gautam (Seemapuri), Kailash Gehlot (Najafgarh), HazaiLal Chouhan (Patel Nagar), Sharad Kumar Chauhan (Narela), Madan Lal (Kasturba Nagar), Rakhi Birla (Mangolpuri), Mohd Ishraque (Seelampur), Anil Kumar Bajpai (Gandhi Nagar), Surender Singh (Delhi Cantonment), Mohinder Goyal (Rithala).
EC pointed out that Ved Prakash had resigned in April, 2017.
The poll panel is hearing another plea to disqualify 20 AAP lawmakers for allegedly holding office of profit by being appointed parliamentary secretaries.
The EC had, on January 19, recommended the disqualification of the 20 AAP MLAs. President Kovind had accepted the poll panel's opinion the next day. But the EC's move was quashed by the Delhi high court, terming it 'bad in law'.
Now, the matter is being heard afresh by the Commission.
The ruling AAP welcomed President Kovind's decision, saying the move has defeated the Bharatiya Janata Party's attempt at undermining constitutional institutions in the country.