Delhi High Court on the Appointment of a Leader of Opposition

Guest Post: Vasujith Ram

Last
year, LAOT carried three blog posts, debating whether a recognized Leader of
Opposition (LoP) has to be appointed irrespective of the number of seats the
party in opposition has won. They are here:

On
14th January this year, the Delhi High Court in the case of Imran
Ali v Union of India
delivered its judgment in the light of a PIL
seeking the appointment of an LoP. The petitioner contended that the CVC Act,
2003, the RTI Act, 2005, etc. provide that the LoP shall be a part of the
committee in deciding matters of appointment – and hence a LoP would have to
be appointed. The Court responded that the statutes only refer to the involvement
of a LoP, assuming that a LoP exists, but nowhere do they refer to the appointment of a LoP. Moreover, the ASG
stated (as noted previously on this blog here)
that the statutes themselves provide that a) the leader of the single largest
party shall be deemed to be the LoP
for the purpose of the act; and b) the appointments made under the statutes
would not be invalid due to vacancies in the selection committee.
A
further contention was that Rule 121 of the Directions by the Speaker [issued]
under Rule 389 of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in Lok Sabha
was “wrongly” invoked to deny the appointment of an LoP. The context of this
argument is that the Salary and Allowances of Leaders of Opposition in
Parliament Act, 1977 provides that an LoP is the leader of a party that is a) in opposition with the
greatest numerical strength, and b) recognized by the Speaker – and Rule 121
refers to the recognition of a Parliamentary party. The Court’s response was
against that even if it was “wrongly” invoked, the provisions still do not mandate that a LoP should be appointed.
Furthermore, the ASG’s stand, affirmed by the Court, was that the Leaders and
Chief Whips of Recognised Parties and Groups in Parliament (Facilities) Act,
1998 provides that only a party with at least 54 seats is recognized (again,
noted previously on this blog here).
There
were indubitably other arguments (see the above-mentioned blogs) that were not
raised before the Court. Therefore, rightly, the Court (in a rare decision)
held:
“…since the said dismissal
is owing to the petitioner having been unable to make out a case and since the
petition was filed in public interest, we clarify that the dismissal of this
petition would not constitute a precedent
in an appropriate and properly
framed and argued matter, even if claiming the same reliefs.”
It
is also pertinent to note that other important questions such as the judicial
review of the Speaker’s decision was not decided by the Court. Since the
petition was not entertained, the Court refrained from answering the said
question.
(Vasujith Ram is a student
of the National University of Juridical Sciences)

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