Sunday, January 25, 2015

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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