In its opinion sent to President Kovind, the EC had said the MLAs, by occupying the post of parliamentary secretaries between March 13, 2015, and September 8, 2016, held offices of profit, and were liable to be disqualified as legislators, PTI quoted highly-placed sources as saying.
A notification issued by the law ministry quoted the president as saying that in the light of the opinion expressed by the Election Commission (EC), the 20 members of the Delhi legislative assembly have been disqualified.
"...Having considered the matter in the light of the opinion expressed by the Election Commission, I, Ram Nath Kovind, president of India, in exercise of the powers...do here hold that the aforesaid 20 members of the Delhi legislative assembly stand disqualified from being members of the said assembly," the notification said.
Gopal Rai, the president of the Delhi unit of the AAP, termed the entire episode as "unfortunate". Rai said AAP MLAs were not given time to meet the President.
When we approached President's office, we were told he was away, Rai said.
Senior party leader Ashutosh said the President's order disqualifying 20 AAP MLAs is unconstitutional and dangerous for democracy.
Taking a jibe at the President's decision, AAP leader Somnath Bharti tweeted: "Learnt that @rashtrapatibhvn found disqualifying 20 AAP MLAs so beneficial to the national interest that he did so on a Sunday, a holiday! Hope High Court/Supreme Court intervenes and sets aside all such barbaric and anti-democratic decision of Modified Rashtrapati and CEC!"
Learnt that @rashtrapatibhvn found disqualifying 20 AAP MLAs so beneficial to the national interest that he did so on a Sunday, a holiday! Hope High Court/Supreme Court intervenes and sets aside all such barbaric and anti-democratic decision of Modified Rashtrapati and CEC!
— Adv. Somnath Bharti (@attorneybharti) January 21, 2018
Meanwhile, the Congress alleged that the EC "helped" the AAP by delaying its recommendation for disqualifying its MLAs enabled it in sending three candidates to the Rajya Sabha.
"Had the recommendation come before the Rajya Sabha election, the AAP would not have been able to send three members to the Rajya Sabha," Delhi Congress chief Ajay Maken claimed.
Rejecting Congress's claim, BJP spokesperson Meenakshi Lekhi said, "The fact that their Rajya Sabha nomination happened makes it clear that the EC was working at its own pace and there was no pressure on the poll panel".
"It's a constitutional body whose mandate is to obey the law," she said.
The move will pave the way for by-polls in Delhi for 20 constituencies of the 70-member assembly. The AAP at present has officially 66 members in the House although some have since turned dissidents. The other four seats are held by the BJP.
Even after the disqualification of 20 MLAs, the ruling party will still have a comfortable majority in the Delhi Assembly.
The MLAs who face axe are Alka Lamba, Adarsh Shastri, Sanjeev Jha, Rajesh Gupta, Kailash Gehlot, 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 (Tilak Nagar).
The panel last year in October issued a notice to the AAP MLAs seeking an explanation after rejecting their pleas to drop the 'office of profit' case against them.
In March 2015, the AAP government passed an amendment to the Delhi Members of Legislative Assembly (Removal of Disqualification) Act, 1997, to exempt the posts of Parliamentary Secretary from the definition of office of profit with retrospective effect.
But then President Mukherjee refused to give assent, following which the appointments were set aside by the Delhi High Court in September 2016, declaring them illegal since the order had been passed "without concurrence/approval of the Lt Governor".
(With inputs from agencies)