The Supreme Court of India on 22 August 2014 asked the Union Government to decide the status of the Leader of Opposition (LoP) in the Lok Sabha. It asked the government to respond on the issue by 9 September 2014.
The decision was made by the Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice RM Lodha and comprised of Justice Kurian Joseph and Justice Rohinton Nariman. The becnh was hearing a writ petition filed by a non-governmental organisation Common Cause. The petitioner has challenged the provisions of the Lokpal Act, 2013. The Act for its implementation needs a Leader of Opposition who should be the member of the Lokpal Selection Committee. The Prime Minister and the Speaker of the Lok Sabha are also members of the panel.
The court highlighted that Lokpal Legislation could not be put into a cold storage as till now no-one has been appointed to the post of Lokpal. Appointment of any person to the position of Lokpal can be done only when the Leader of Opposition is one of the five members of the selection committee.
The apex court said that it is concerned about the post of LoP in the Lok Sabha that is vacant. It also highlighted the importance of the LoOP that conveys the voice different from the government in the House.
However earlier in August 2014, the apex court had rejected a public interest litigation seeking grant of LoP status to the Congress, saying decisions taken by the Speaker weren’t amenable to judicial review.
Analysis and Background
After results of the 16th Lok Sabha election was declared on 16 May 2014, any party failed to garner minimum 10 percent of the seats under which they can nominate any of its leaders as the Leader of Opposition. The previous ruling party Congress failed to garner 10 percent seats in the election and was decimated to 44 seats only in the 543 member house, whereas it needed minimum 55 seats for being nominated. Congress was the second largest party with maximum seat count after the election.
On the other hand, Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan has already rejected the demand of Congress for the post of Leader of Opposition (LoP), even after repeated and regular demand. She highlighted the rules that barred her to nominate any party as opposition as the any party’s eligibility required at least 55 seats in the Lower House.
The rule requiring minimum 10 percent seat in the House is mandatory for the post of LoP was framed in 1950 under Mavalankar Rule. GV Mavalankar was the speaker of the first Lok Sabha.
Six times Lok Sabha has witnessed no recognised leader of opposition
This is not the first time that the Lok Sabha has not witnessed any recognised leader of opposition. Previously the incident had happened six times in different Lok Sabhas and they were First Lok Sabha, Second Lok Sabha, Third Lok Sabha, Fifth Lok Sabha, Seventh Lok Sabha, and Eighth Lok Sabha.
The Lok Sabha had no recognised Leader of the Opposition until 1969 (except AK Gopalan in the First Lok Sabha). The post was also vacant between 1979 and 1989 during seventh and eighth Lok Sabhaand after this it is the first time that the Lok Sabha has witnessed absence of recognised Leader of the Opposition.
When: on 22 August 2014