The absence of recognised Leader of Opposition (LoP) in Lok Sabha will not invalidate appointments in various statutory bodies including Lokpal and CVC among others, Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi has said.
The Attorney General (AG), in his opinion to Lok Sabha on the issue of LoP, has also said that the power to recognise a Parliamentary Party or group for functioning in the House is solely that of the Speaker.
The LoP is a member of selection committees to choose the chief and members of Lokpal, Central Vigilance Commission (CVC), Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), Central Information Commission (CIC) and National Human Rights Commission (NHRC).
The AG’s opinion was sought by the Lok Sabha secretariat after UPA chairperson Sonia Gandhi wrote to Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan seeking LoP post for Congress nominee.
All the four Acts — the Protection of Human Rights Act, 1993, the CVC Act, 2003, RTI Act, 2005 and the Lokpal and Lokayuktas Act, 2013 — provide that the selection “shall not be rendered invalid under any of the Acts merely on account of a vacancy of any member in the committees,” the AG said.
It is clear that in at least two of the four Acts (CVC and RTI), Parliament has clearly stated its intention i.E. that there may be a situation where no LoP is recognised in Lok Sabha by the Speaker.
“As far as the other two Acts are concerned, it is obvious that the vacancy in the selection committee regarding Leader of Opposition, who will not be present in the committee because of lack of appointment as such, will be treated as a casual vacancy i.E. Akin to a member of the selection committee not being able to attend the meeting,” Rohatgi has said in the letter copy of which was received in response to an RTI query.
The four Acts have nothing to do with the actual recognition of a member of the House as Leader of Opposition which recognition vests solely in the discretion of the Speaker, the AG has said.
After the formation of NDA government at the Centre, Gandhi had written to the Lok Sabha Speaker.
“We would like to request Speaker to recognise and declare the leader of Congress party in Lok Sabha, Mallikarjuna Kharge, as the Leader of the Opposition and to further request that all consequential steps in that regard to be taken,” Gandhi had said in July 7 letter.
She had cited various provisions of the law while seeking LoP status for Congress in the letter signed by 60 Lok Sabha members belonging to United Progressive Alliance (UPA) including those from Nationalist Congress Party (NCP), Rashtriya Janta Dal (RJD), Indian Union Muslim League (IUML) and Jharkhand Mukti Morcha (JMM).