New Delhi, Jan 24 The Delhi High Court on Wednesday restrained the Election Commission from announcing bypolls till Monday to 20 Delhi Assembly seats in the wake of the disqualification of 20 AAP MLAs for holding office of profit as Parliamentary Secretaries.
"Don't take precipitative steps that will aggravate the situation," Justice Vibhu Bakhru said, adding the court will hear the grievances of these since-disqualified 20 AAP MLAs in detail on January 29.
The court, however, refused to stay the impugned notification on the disqualification and listed the matter for hearing on Monday (January 29).
It also asked the Election Commission, Centre, Delhi government and complainant-lawyer Prashant Patel to file their responses to the AAP MLAs' challenge to the notification.
The court rejected the Election Commission's submission that the case must be heard by a Division Bench instead of a single Judge to save time.
Eight AAP MLAs on Tuesday moved the High Court to challenge the disqualifying notification.
The counsel for the Aam Aadmi Party MLAs told the court that the notification is a "gross violation of natural justice because the Election Commission decided the matter in undue haste and without affording and giving any opportunity of fair hearing to the petitioners".
They pleaded that the action was contrary to Article 14 of the Constitution of India, ultra vires, void ab initio, and an attack on the basic fabric of democracy.
The ruling party's disqualified legislators said that the EC action is bad in the eyes of law and completely affected by the vice of arbitrariness and its failure to adhere to the enshrined principle of rule of natural justice.
"The failure to give an opportunity of hearing has gravely prejudiced the petitioners and their civil rights have been seriously affected," the plea said.
Sunil Arora, appointed the Election Commissioner after Syed Nasim Ahmad Zaidi's retirement, never had any occasion to deal with the matter or to understand the facts of the case, the petitioners told the court.
The complainant, Prashant Patel, failed to produce any prima facie material on record to show that any profit was derived or pecuniary advantage taken by them, they contended.
Their counsel said there was nothing on record to show that any of the ingredients was made out against the AAP MLAs for holding an office of profit.
Following an Election Commission recommendation to President Ram Nath Kovind, the Law and Justice Ministry on Saturday issued a notification that the President had okayed the disqualification of the 20 MLAs.
The disqualified MLAs are Alka Lamba, Adarsh Shastri, Sanjeev Jha, Rajesh Gupta, Kailash Gahlot, Vijendra Garg, Praveen Kumar, Sharad Kumar, Madan Lal Khufiya, Shiv Charan Goyal, Sarita Singh, Naresh Yadav, Rajesh Rishi, Anil Kumar, Som Dutt, Avtar Singh, Sukhvir Singh Dala, Manoj Kumar, Nitin Tyagi, and Jarnail Singh.
Eight of them have requested the court to quash the EC's opinion dated January 19 and an official gazette notification dated January 20 published on January 21.
The petitioners' counsel said that the Ministry of Law and Justice issued the notification on the opinion rendered by the Election Commission, which is "unconstitutional".