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Wednesday 1 April 2020

Delhi High Court refuses urgent hearing for plea seeking LoP’s appointment in LS

Advocates Manmohan Singh Narula & Susmita Kumari, who filed petition, said Speaker was not performing his statutory duty of appointing LoP

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New Delhi: The Delhi High Court on Wednesday refused an urgent hearing to a plea for asking the Lok Sabha speaker to appoint a leader of the opposition (LoP) in the House.

A vacation bench of justices Jyoti Singh and Manoj Kumar Ohri said “looking at the relief sought, there is no urgency”. The bench instead listed the petition for hearing by an appropriate bench on 8 July.

Advocates Manmohan Singh Narula and Susmita Kumari, who filed the petition, said the Speaker was not performing his statutory duty of appointing the LoP.

They argued in the petition that recognising a member of the house as the leader of the opposition was “not a political or arithmetical decision, but a statutory decision”.

“The speaker has to merely ascertain whether the party claiming this post is the largest party in the opposition,” they said in the petition, which also sought framing of a policy for appointment of the LoP.

Denying the second largest party in Parliament — the Congress — the leadership of the opposition sets a wrong precedent and dilutes democracy, they added.

West Bengal’s Behrampur MP Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury has been elected as the leader of the Congress parliamentary party in the Lok Sabha.

The petition said under the Salaries and Allowances of Leaders of Opposition in Parliament Act of 1977, the person who is the leader of the numerically biggest party in opposition to the government is considered as the LoP.

“That is the new Lok Sabha, with 52 members, the Congress is the largest party in the Opposition, and is, therefore, the rightful claimant to this post under the law,” it said.

The petition also contended that there is no condition in the Salaries and Allowances of the Leader of Opposition in Parliament Act that the party in opposition has to have a strength of 10% of the total MPs in the house for its leader to be recognised as LoP.

The petitioners have claimed that “the Speaker is legally bound to recognise the leader of that party as the leader of the opposition as per the statute passed by the Parliament.

“Since the speaker is performing a statutory duty in recognising the leader of the opposition, she or he cannot exercise any discretion in the matter,” the petitioner said.

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