The Supreme Court (SC), on Friday, agreed to interpret the Leader of Opposition (LoP) provision for purpose of appointment of Lokpal. In this, the LoP is defined as a selection committee member, which stresses on its importance in governance.
Both the Congress and BJP have sought the ruling over the Leader of Opposition's (LoP) post in the recent past.
The Supreme Court said, “The LoP is very important component (under Lokpal law) and needs objective consideration.”
While agreeing to interpret the LoP provision Supreme Court said, “The issue cannot be prolonged and the act cannot be put in cold storage.”
The SC asked the NDA Government at the Centre to explain why there is no Leader of Opposition in Parliament, and gave the former a month’s time to come up with an answer on how it proposes to select Lokpal members, if such a post remains vacant or does not exist. The committee to select the nine members of the Lokpal is meant to include the Leader of the Opposition along with the Prime Minister and others. The apex court pointed out that the make-up of the committee is part of the law passed by Parliament that brings the Lokpal into existence.
Further highlighting the importance of LoP, the Supreme Court said that “it conveys the voice different from the government in the House, hence it can't be overlooked".
Lok Sabha Speaker Sumira Mahajan on August 19, had rejected the Congress' demand for being accorded the status of Leader of Opposition to its group chief in Lok Sabha. 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.
The Speaker had also taken the opinion of Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi who had said that Congress does not have the numbers so that its floor leader can be granted the status of Leader of Opposition.
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. However, citing rules, the Speaker has conveyed to the Congress that she was not in a position to give the party Leader of Opposition status because it fell short of the minimum 55 seats required for staking claim to the post.
Prashant Bhushan, lawyer-activist and leader of the Aam Aadmi Party, has brought the matter to the Supreme Court, asking the Centre to explain the delay in deciding the members of the Lokpal. The Lokpal's nine members are meant to include four former or serving judges. The law that creates the Lokpal was passed by Parliament in December, after two years of stalling. The need for an ombudsman empowered to investigate corrupt government officials was championed by activist Anna Hazare and Arvind Kejriwal in 2012 in a high-profile movement which caught the imagination of middle class India.
(With agency inputs)