Congress today said there is "absolutely no legal bar" for it in getting the post of the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha despite the party falling short of the requisite numbers.
"Certainly statutory preconditions have to be satisfied. But there is absolutely no legal bar over the discretion of the Speaker to recognise in functional terms of group, leader or party as Opposition," Congress spokesperson Abhishek Singhvi said.
Striking a similar note, former Law Minister M Veerappa Moily said a plain reading of law makes it clear that for a person to be recognised for the post should be leader of a party in Opposition with the greatest numerical strength. He was rejecting suggestions that Congress, with 44 MPs in the Lok Sabha, may not get the post of Leader of the Opposition.
"Beyond these legal requirements mentioned in Section 2 of The Salary and Allowances of Leaders of Opposition in Parliament Act, 1977, there appears to be no other condition such as the minimum number of strength of such party equivalent to the quorum of the house," Moily said in a statement to PTI. He said the "ambiguity" on the issue has arisen due to the practice being followed by the Lok Sabha Speaker in granting recognition to Leaders of the Opposition in the past.
"The practice has been to read Direction 121 of the Directions of the Speaker which says that in recognising a Parliamentary Party or Group, the Speaker should ensure that it shall have at least a strength equal to the quorum fixed to constitute a sitting of the House, that is one-tenth of the total number of members of the House.
"...in this context it may be mentioned that directions of the Speaker cannot override a statutory requirement," he insisted. According to Moily, Parliament cannot function without a Leader of Opposition since then many provisions in the Acts of Parliament have recognised and have assigned a definite role for the Leader of Opposition in appointments to statutory bodies and authorities.