NEW DELHI: In a significant development, the Supreme Court Friday decided to go into the issue of interpreting the provision of leader of Opposition (LoP) in Lok Sabha in the matter of selection of statutory bodies when there is no recognised LoP.
Asking the government to make its stand clear within two weeks, a bench, headed by Chief Justice R M Lodha, emphasised the importance of the post saying leader of Opposition conveys the voice of representation different from government in the House.
It said LoP is a very important component (under Lokpal law) and the issue needs objective consideration in view of the current political dispensation when there is no leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha.
Interestingly, the issue has cropped up in the court at a time when the leader of the Congress group has been denied recognition as leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha.
The court was scrutinising provisions of Lokpal law, which says that the selection committee for choosing the anti-corruption watchdog should also include LoP in Lok Sabha.
The bench observed that the Act cannot remain in cold storage because of lack of LoP and some interpretation is needed on the issue. It raised a question whether the leader of largest opposition party can be granted the status of LoP for the purpose of the Act.
The bench granted the government two weeks’ time to make its stand clear and come prepared on next date of hearing on September 9 saying that matter is very significant. “The question is this committee must be constituted. LoP is a very important component, as a matter of fact very-very important. It gives objective considerations (in selection process),” the bench said.
The apex court had earlier this month rejected a PIL seeking grant of leader of Opposition status to Congress party saying that decisions taken by Speaker are not amenable to judicial review.
The bench also observed that the issue of LoP is relevant not only in Lokpal law but also in other existing and incoming legislations and the issue cannot be prolonged. It rejected government’s plea, which sought four weeks’ time to get prepared on the issue. The government informed the court that the Act is under review and some provisions of Lokpal law can be amended. The government, however, refused to specify what is under review.
As the second largest party in the Lok Sabha with 44 seats, Congress had demanded LoP post for it but the Speaker has rejected it saying it does not have the requisite 10 per cent of seats – 55 in a House of 543.
While the laws relating to CVC and Lokpal require LoP of Lok Sabha to be member of the selection committee, they also provide that appointment of the chairperson or members of these bodies shall not be invalid merely by reason of any vacancy in the committee. The law relating to CIC and CVC also provide that when there is no recognised LoP, the leader of single largest group be made member of the committee. Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi also pointed out the post in the selection committee of Lokpal remains vacant if there is no LoP.
But the bench said that a proper interpretation is required on the issue as there are many statutes under which LoP is to be consulted and also because LoP conveys voice of people not represented by government.