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President Pranab Mukherjee rejects a bill passed by Delhi assembly seeking to exempt 21 AAP MLAs

The stage could be set for a mini-election in Delhi, with President Pranab Mukherjee on Monday rejecting a bill passed by the Delhi assembly last year seeking to exempt 21 AAP MLAs appointed as parliamentary secretaries from the purview of `office of profit’ criteria.

The President’s decision is a major setback to the Kejriwal government and leaves the AAP MLAs a few steps from possible disqualification. Section 15 of the government of NCT of Delhi Act, 1991 says a person shall not remain an MLA if he or she holds any office of profit under the Centre or government of a state or UT.

The legislator can escape disqualification only if the office is declared -by law made by Parliament, state legislature or UT -as a post that does not attract loss of membership. The fate of the MLAs will now be decided by the Election Commission that is considering a petition seeking their disqualification. Elaborating on the President’s grounds for rejec tion of the bill, a home ministry official said the law was clear that what constitutes an “office of profit” and what does not must be pre-defined.

“Applying exemptions with retrospective effect is unconstitutional,” the official said. The view in official circles is that with the President rejecting the bill, the post of parliamentary secretary is clearly an `office of profit’ and the disqualification of the AAP MLAs is all but a foregone conclusion.

While such a development will follow only after the EC completes its proceedings on a petition seeking the disqualification of the MLAs, Delhi could be headed for a major political showdown that will test the electoral strength of AAP, BJP and Congress.

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