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Principle & procedure: on the court ruling on AAP MLAs (Relevant for GS Mains Paper II)

Delhi High Court view contrary to EC view
The Delhi High Court verdict setting aside the disqualification of 20 Aam Aadmi Party MLAs in Delhi is a searing indictment of the manner in which the Election Commission handled the complaint that they held offices of profit while serving as parliamentary secretaries.

Embarrassment to EC
For a body vested with the crucial power to determine whether lawmakers have incurred disqualification in certain circumstances and advise the President or the Governor suitably, this is an embarrassing moment. The court has not reviewed its decision on merits.

Violation of natural justice
Rather, it has ruled that the EC violated the principles of natural justice while adjudicating a lawyer’s complaint against the legislators.

It failed to offer an oral hearing on the merits of the complaint and chose to hide under the specious argument that notices had been issued to the MLAs to respond to documents that the EC had summoned from the Delhi government. After saying in its order of June 2017 that it would fix a date for the next hearing, the commission issued two notices seeking replies but fixed no date; instead, it proceeded to give its decision on January 19, 2018. Further, Election Commissioner O.P. Rawat, who had recused himself at an earlier point, rejoined the process without intimation to the legislators. And another vitiating factor was that Election Commissioner Sunil Arora, who had not heard the matter and assumed office only in September 2017, had signed the order. It is a basic feature of judicial or quasi-judicial processes that someone who does not hear a matter does not decide on it.

(Adapted from the Hindu)

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