Why no Oppn leader so far, SC asks Centre

Says govt must clarify stand by Sept 9

Why no Oppn leader so far, SC asks Centre

The Supreme Court on Friday expressed concern over the absence of a Leader of Opposition (LoP) in the Lok Sabha, and said it would interpret the legal provisions if the government failed to clarify the issue in view of the importance of the LoP’s role in Lokpal and other statutory bodies.

A three-judge bench, presided over by Chief Justice R M Lodha, gave the Centre time till September 9 to clarify its position on the issue, or the court would interpret the rules to sync them with the current situation, wherein no party has been granted the post of LoP.

The court also pointed out that appointments in the Lokpal panel could be kept pending for too long if the post was not assigned.

Dealing with a PIL filed by the NGO Common Cause, which challenged the Lokpal Act and its rules, the bench, also consisting of Justices Kurian Joseph and R F Nariman, said it was important to have an LoP as it would be a voice different from the government.

“We will interpret the term Leader of Opposition under the Lokpal rules on the next date of hearing, since the Lokpal selection panel envisaged LoP as one of its five members.

“If the government fails to resolve the LoP issue, the court may give a larger interpretation to the term so that it may include the leader of the largest party or the leader of a large group,” said the bench.

The apex court had on August 8 refused to act on an advocate’s plea seeking quashing of first Lok Sabha Speaker G V Mavalankar’s 10-per cent rule used for granting Leader of Opposition status. It had added that the Speaker’s decisions were not amendable by judicial review.

Notably, according to the Mavalankar’s rule, settled in 1952, a party must have at least 10 per cent of the strength of the House for being able to be designated a parliamentary party, and the leader of the largest such party in the Opposition could be designated as Leader of Opposition.

Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan recently rejected the Congess’ claim for the LoP post as the party’s strength fell 10 short of the required number of 55 MPs. During the hearing on Friday, the Supreme Court also pointed out that the issue could not be prolonged as it was relevant not only to the Lokpal law but also in other existing and incoming legislation.

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