In a major setback to the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) in Delhi, its order appointing 21 lawmakers as parliamentary secretaries has been set aside by the high court.
If the Election Commission decides that the appointments were illegal, the lawmakers will stand disqualified, making an election necessary in Delhi.
A month after taking power in February last year, Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal made the appointments. AAP said the parliamentary secretaries would help ministers with harmonious functioning.
An elected member holding an office of profit is a violation of the constitution.
In June, President Pranab Mukherjee refused to sign off on a law that would have validated the second paying job for the AAP legislators.
The law to exclude parliamentary secretaries from “office of profit” was passed in the Delhi assembly, where AAP has 67 of 70 members.
After the president returned the bill, petitions asking for the disqualification of the lawmakers were made to the Election Commission, which is expected to announce a decision soon.
AAP had defended the appointments in court, saying the move does not amount to the creation of a public office and the lawmakers were not drawing any salary from public money. They would, however, use government transport for official purposes and space in the ministers’ offices to help them in the official work.
This is the second major legal blow for the AAP government in recent weeks. Last month, the high court said that the Lieutenant Governor is the administrative head of Delhi, and the state government has to consult him on all decisions.