Define LOP or we will: SC tells Govt

The court is hearing a PIL that has challenged the Lokpal appointment rules and seeks more transparency in selection process.

Written by Utkarsh Anand | New Delhi | Updated: August 23, 2014 3:43 am
The bench responded that it would hear the PIL on merits on September 9, without waiting for any amendment. The bench responded that it would hear the PIL on merits on September 9, without waiting for any amendment.

With no recognised Leader of Opposition (LOP) in the Lok Sabha, the Supreme Court on Friday took it upon itself to interpret the term LOP for the purposes of various important appointments and said it would not wait for the government to amend the laws.

Hearing a PIL on the appointment of Lokpal, a bench led by Chief Justice of India R M Lodha noted that the five-member panel for selection of India’s first Lokpal envisaged existence of the LOP and hence the statutory provision required a proper interpretation so that the Lokpal law remains effective.

“Such an important law will be rendered meaningless… it will be frustrated if statutory requirements are not met. The Act cannot be kept in cold storage if problems have emerged. Leader of Opposition is a significant position in House of people. He is a voice representing views contrary to government and gives objective considerations (in selection process). Parliament may not have envisaged such a situation but it now needs to be interpreted so that the process is fast-tracked,” observed the bench.

When Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi said that as the position stood today, the post of LOP would remain vacant in such selection panels, the bench, also comprising Justices Kurian Jospeh and Rohinton F Nariman, said that the government’s stand warranted an interpretation of the term LOp.

“If vacuum remains till the Legislature decides to intervene and such a position continues, proper interpretation has to be given. Otherwise, the Act will be rendered ineffective. Lokpal is not the only statute where mandatory consultation with the Leader of Opposition is mandated but there are several others too. We are not waiting for any amendment or any session of Parliament. We will interpret it if the government does not do it by the next date of hearing,” said the bench while fixing the matter for final disposal on September 9.

The court added: “If a statute pre-supposes existence of the Leader of Opposition, some interpretation has to be given so that there is somebody in this position for proper working of the statute. It is a very important post. Tell us if you are not willing to amend the laws and we will interpret it since prolonging this will not help anybody.”

The bench said that not having a LOp will lead to having no objective criteria in the manner of selection and very basis of composition of selection committee would be exposed to fundamental problems.

LoP is a member of selection panel for selecting not only Lokpal but also Central Vigilance Commissioner, CBI Director, National Human Rights Chairperson. The issue has cropped up in the court at a time when the leader of the Congress group has been denied recognition as Leader of Opposition in the Lok Sabha.

When asked if the government was going to amend the provision in the Act, the AG said the entire Lokpal Act and its rules were being reviewed by the new government while turning down a proposition that leader of the second largest party could be considered as the LOp for the purposes of such appointments. Rohatgi said the government was considering everything but the decision making would take some time and hence no categorical reply could be given to the court at this juncture.

At this, counsel for petitioner NGO Common Cause Prashant Bhushan said that if amendment to the law was being contemplated, nothing will move at least till November when the next Parliament session is convened.

The bench responded that it would hear the PIL on merits on September 9, without waiting for any amendment. The PIL has challenged the selection process while also demanding more transparency in the manner of appointments.

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  1. I
    Aug 23, 2014 at 3:40 am
    The Honourable court do well not to tresp into the domain of legislature.and speaker.It is natural that each individual may have his opinion on every issue , but it is not fair to tresp into other's territory. It is well known that a judge is also human and is borne to prejudices and equation of some judges with the government is being strained , their decision can be always alleged to have a personal level.This should be avoided
    1. A
      ANIL P.
      Aug 23, 2014 at 4:09 am
      It must be remembered that Mr. Ladha is product of collegium system of selection of judges as told by himself. This system is used by small Dehli club to increase their power. Mr. Lodha was the most offended person by the legislature's near unanimous law creating NJAC. He had warned or rather threatened Law Minister publicly. He has now taken upon himself to make laws which is the domain of legislature. His actions shows why it is most important to stop collegium and create NJAC. If SC is so concerned with lokpal let all the courts be brought under RTI and Lokpal act. We dont like a Hitler in Government or Court.
      1. A
        Aug 22, 2014 at 2:51 pm
        AIADMK, TDP and Bimu Janatadal may be allowed to form a group and one of their members can be made LOP and thwart the I'll design of the corrupt and power hungry CongressA.R.Bharadwaj
        1. A
          Aug 22, 2014 at 5:21 pm
          The Supreme Court should respect People's verdict & allow Hon. Prime Minister to take decisions regarding Lokpal, RTI appointments & LOP.
          1. K
            Aug 22, 2014 at 10:55 pm
            How can a party which does not even command 10 % of the strength of the House act or contribute as an effective leader of opposition excepting for being a thorn in the smooth functioning of the system.It has been seen time & again taht the Congress party does not believe in a healthy democratic approach & the atude has always been to create constraints.Even without a leader of opposition, the house can function smoothly so long as every opposition MP contributes effectively to the debates & partites effectively in any of the committee deliberations.As regards the selection panels ,the LOP can be replaced by any eminent personality to fill the void & contribute effectively.
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