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HC defers plea against 21 AAP parliamentary secretaries

New Delhi : The Delhi High Court on Wednesday deferred the hearing of a PIL challenging the Aam Aadmi Party government’s decision to appoint 21 legislators as parliamentary secretaries.

A division bench of Chief Justice G. Rohini and Sangita Dhingra Sehgal posted the matter for September 8, after the Arvind Kejriwal-led Delhi government said a plea will come up for hearing on Thursday before the Election Commission on disqualification of these MLAs and this PIL be heard after four weeks.

President Pranab Mukherjee in June refused to sign a bill that allowed the 21 AAP MLAs to hold a second paying position as parliamentary secretary, leaving their fate hanging in balance.

The Election Commission has summoned the legislators to clarify their position on July 14.

The AAP had earlier defended its decision in high court, saying the move does not amount to creation of a “public office”.

“The provision of parliamentary secretary is merely to assist the minister in connection with the public and the rest of the assembly and ensuring a harmonious functioning,” it had said in an affidavit.

After coming to power in February 2015, the AAP government appointed the parliamentary secretaries, saying this would facilitate smooth functioning but made it clear that they would not receive any remuneration or perk from the government, that is, no burden on the exchequer.

The order, however, permitted them to use government transport for official purposes and earmarked space in the ministers’ offices to help them in the official work.

A public interest litigation filed by NGO Rashtriya Mukti Morcha had sought scrapping of the appointments as these were “unconstitutional, illegal and without jurisdiction”.

The PIL said Kejriwal had “no power, jurisdiction or authority” to administer the oath of office to parliamentary secretaries.

The bench earlier refused to stay the government order, saying it required further consideration.