Even as Lok Sabha Speaker remains undecided on the issue of offering the post of Leader of Opposition in the Lower House of Parliament to the Congress in view of its dismal strength — less than 10 per cent of the total membership of the House — the government has been told that a Congress-nominated MP, possibly leader of the party in Lok Sabha, will have to be involved while making selection of new Central Information Commissioners.
Sources told The Indian Express that legal experts have told the government that whenever the selection of information commissioners is made, it would be illegal not to involve the Congress nominee in the process.
The government will soon have to initiate the process of appointing information commissioners, with two vacancies already existing in the 11-member body and a third will arise soon as Chief Information Commissioner Rajiv Mathur is to retire in August.
Under the Right to Information Act, 2005, the selection of the Chief Information Commissioner and Central Information Commissioners is done by the President on the recommendation of a committee comprising the Prime Minister, Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha and a Union Cabinet minister nominated by the Prime Minister.
However, under the Act, if no MP has been formally recognised as Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha, the leader of the “single largest group in opposition of the Government in the House of the People shall be deemed to be the Leader of Opposition”.
Apart from the CIC, there are many other posts where the Leader of Opposition — either of Lok Sabha or Rajya Sabha or, in some cases, both Houses — is part of the selection panel. These include the Central Vigilance Commissioner, Chairperson and Members of the National Human Rights Commission and the Lokpal. Under the Lokbal Act, the selection of CBI Director has to be now done by a committee comprising, among others, the Leaders of Opposition in both Houses of Parliament.
Meanwhile, it is learnt that Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan could seek a legal opinion from the Law Ministry before taking a final call on whether a Congress nominee can be granted the rank and status of Leader of Opposition. Sources said she is likely to seek the opinion before the start of the Budget Session.
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