Zee Media Bureau
New Delhi: Former union law minister and India`s one of the senior most lawyers Shanti Bhushan, on Friday, raised his voice against Lok Sabha speaker Sumitra Mahajan`s decision over the Leader of Opposition (LoP) status, saying that the LS must select LoP even if amendments have to be made for it in the constitution.
“ LoP is necessary for appointment of Lokpal. Lok Sabha must select LoP even if amendments have to be made for it,” Bhushan told reporters here.
Bhushan, who is also one of the top founding leaders of the Aam Aadmi Party (AAP) reacted over the LoP post hours after the Supreme Court today asked the Centre to decide by September 9 on the status of Leader of Opposition (to represent the Lokpal Selection committee) and made it clear that the Lokpal legislation could not be put into cold storage.
A three-judge Bench of Chief Justice RM Lodha and Justices Kurian Joseph and Rohinton Nariman told Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi that the law could not be rendered ineffective due to the delay in taking decision by the government. The Bench was hearing a writ petition filed by NGO `Common Cause’ challenging the provisions of Lokpal Act and its Rules.
It said LoP is a very important component (under Lokpal law) and the issue needs objective consideration in view of 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.
Counsel Prashant Bhushan, appearing for the petitioner faulted the government for relying on the Mavlankar rule framed in 1950. He said, “why such a rule should prevail now. If the LoP is not there, the leader of the single largest party can be considered,” PTI said.
The CJI said, “LoP holds a significant position in House of People. LoP is a voice representing views contrary to government. The very position of selection committee will create legal problems in the absence of LoP. The Parliament may not have envisaged such a situation but it now needs to be interpreted so that the process is fast-tracked. The issue needs objective consideration in view of current political situation. The issue of LoP is relevant not only in Lokpal law but also in other existing legislations and it cannot be prolonged.”
Earlier, citing rules, Mahajan had refused refused to allow the Congress to have the post of the leader of the opposition in Lok Sabha.
"I have gone by rules and tradition," she had said.
The Speaker`s decision rejecting the Congress` demand was later conveyed in a letter to the party leaders. Congress president Sonia Gandhi had written to Mahajan seeking the status of the leader of opposition to Mallikarjun Kharge who is the party`s group leader in the House.
Congress is the second largest group in the Lok Sabha with 44 seats after BJP`s 282 and has been insisting that it should be given the status of leader of opposition.
Whereas, the rule says any party which claims for the LoP post must have a strength of 55 seats.
Pointing out instances when there had been no LoPs, Mahajan had further said: "Many a times, there was no Leader of Opposition. First LoP was only in 1969 as before that no one had 1/10th (seats) in Lok Sabha. There was no LoP in 1980 and also in 1984.”
Further, in view of the dilemma she was facing over the issue, Mahajan had sought Attorney General Mukul Rohtagi`s opinion on the matter.
But, even AG`s opinion came as a setback to Congress, in his letter, Rohatgi had opined that Congress is not eligible and there is no precedent since the days of the first Lok Sabha to grant the post to a party which does not have the minimum required MPs.