With the Supreme Court emphasising the importance of the Opposition’s voice in the appointment of Lokpal, the focus is back on the Congress’ claim for Leader of Opposition’s (LoP) post in the Lok Sabha.
“Think of giving importance to the voice of the LoP. If you are not changing the view, we will interpret (the law) and give a ruling,” a bench headed by RM Lodha, Chief Justice of India, told the government while hearing a PIL on Lokpal’s appointment.
Many interpreted the court’s comments as an indication that it might intervene in the LoP row, which was seemingly settled by Speaker Sumitra Mahajan’s decision to reject the Congress’ claim.
Mahajan on Saturday said her decision was based on rules and tradition and that the SC’s poser was to the government on the issue of Lokpal’s appointment in the absence of LoP and not to her.
There are two laws that deal with issue of LoP — The Salary and Allowances of Leader of Opposition in Parliament Act, 1977 and The Leaders and Chief Whips of Recognised Parties and Groups in Parliament (Facilities) Act, 1998.
According to the 1977 Act, the LoP of a House has to be the leader of the party in Opposition in that House, having the greatest numerical strength and also recognised as such by the presiding officer.
But the 1998 Act says a party needs to have at least 25 members in the RS and 55 members in the LS to be recognised as one in the House, otherwise it is reduced to just a “recognised group”.
As far as Lokpal’s appointment is concerned, the law says no appointment can be declared invalid merely because there is a vacancy in the selection panel.
But the SC also addressed an important question of propriety. It can be resolved by allowing the leader of the largest opposition group in the LS to be part of the selection panel, as is the case with the appointment of information commissioners and central vigilance commissioners.