SC questions government, says issue of LoP cannot be put in cold storage

While the ruling BJP and the Congress party have fought over the Leader of Opposition`s (LoP) post in the recent past, the Supreme Court on Friday stressed on the position`s importance in governance and agreed to interpret it.

Zee Media Bureau/Ritesh K Srivastava

New Delhi: While the ruling BJP and the Congress party have fought over the Leader of Opposition`s (LoP) post in the recent past, the Supreme Court on Friday stressed on the position`s importance in governance and agreed to interpret it.

“The LoP is very important component (under Lokpal law) and needs objective consideration.” a bench headed by Chief Justice RM Lodha said.

Emphasising on the importance of the post, the bench also directed the Centre to make its stand clear on the issue within two weeks.

“LoP is a very important issue and the issue needs objective consideration in view of current political situation where at present there is no Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha,” the apex court bench said.

The bench also observed that the issue of LoP is relevant not only in Lokpal law but also in other existing and incoming legislations.

It said the issue cannot be prolonged and the act cannot be put in cold storage, while posting case for final disposal for September 9.
The BJP, meanwhile, has reacted strongly to the SC observation on the LoP issue.

"The LOP post is virtually appointed by the will of the people, and that is reflected by the people they selected to send to Parliament - that is reflected even this time. Not once, but 7 times, there has not been a LoP, this is the 8th time that such a thing has happened," BJP national spokesperson Meenakshi Lekhi said.

Getting ammunition from the SC`s statement, the Congress blamed the government for refusing to understand democratic principles. "Is it the government`s case that they don`t want the opposition voice in democratic institutions," Congress leader Manish Tewari questioned.

Congress, as the second largest party in the Lok Sabha with 44 seats, has been making a strong bid for the LoP post but the ruling BJP has not acceded, saying the opposition party does not have the requisite 10 per cent seats which meant it needed 55 to stake claim.

Earlier on April 24, the Centre had informed the Court that it would not take any immediate decision on appointment of chairperson and members of the Lokpal.

The Centre`s submission had come on a notice issued to it by the apex court.

The Court had on March 31 sought response from the Centre on a petition filed by an NGO questioning entire selection process for appointment of chairperson and members of Lokpal and seeking its stay.

It had asked the Centre to justify the Search Committee (Constitution, Terms and Conditions of appointment of members and manner of selection of Panel of names for appointment of Chairperson and Members of Lokpal) Rules, 2014 framed under the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2014.

The plea of NGO Common Cause, filed through advocate Prashant Bhushan, had sought to declare "illegal" the rules under which selections were being done.

The PIL had sought a declaration that certain provisions of the rules are ultra vires of the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act and also sought quashing of the entire selection process initiated under the rules alleging that it is "illegal, arbitrary" and violative of Article 14 of the Constitution.

It had said the government was going ahead with the selection process despite there being serious flaws in the rules under which selections were being done.

The petition had also said that Rule 10 (1) provides that the Search Committee shall prepare a panel of persons to be considered by the Selection Committee for appointment of chairperson and members of the Lokpal, from among the list of persons provided by the central government.

The LoP is a Cabinet-rank post and is part of important committees headed by the Prime Minister, which are in charge of selecting key appointees like the national ombudsman, the Lokpal, and the Chief Vigilance Commissioner.

With agency inputs

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