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HC asks EC to present facts behind AAP MLAs' disqualification

NEW DELHI: The division bench of the Delhi high court (HC) on Tuesday ordered the Election Commission (EC) to file a written reply stating the facts behind its decision to disqualify the 20 AAP MLAs. The high court set February 7 as the next date for hearing the case.
A Bench of Justices Sanjiv Khanna and Chander Shekhar asked the poll panel to file the affidavit after the EC said it wanted to respond to some of the allegations made in the MLAs' pleas challenging their disqualification from the Delhi Assembly.
On Monday, the Delhi HC transferred to its division bench the plea of the AAP MLAs challenging their disqualification. The High Court also extended its interim order to the EC to not issue any notification for bypolls in Delhi.
The disqualification necessitates by-polls in the 20 Delhi constituencies. The court also extended till then the January 24 interim order of the single judge restraining the EC from issuing any notification announcing bye-elections to fill the vacancies of the 20 Assembly seats whose legislators have been disqualified. After the brief proceedings, the court listed the matter for further hearing on February 7, by when the MLAs have to file their responses to the EC affidavit.
The Commission also told the court that it would rely upon its opinion given to the President to disqualify the 20 AAP MLAs who were appointed as Parliamentary Secretaries. Five of the former AAP legislators argued in their plea that the EC had acted in "undue haste" , and without "affording" and "giving any opportunity of a fair hearing" to the petitioners.
The ex-MLAs further argued that the EC "failed to follow due process of law by not offering the petitioners a full hearing before making the final opinion to the President". As well, the EC did not consider that "parliamentary secretary" was a "mere post" and not an 'office'.
Last week, AAP legislators moved the Delhi HC after President Ram Nath Kovind on January 21 gave his assent to disqualify them.
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