Two months after Congress’ demand for Leader of Opposition’s post was rejected by Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan, the Lok Sabha Secretriat has in response to a RTI query said there is no minimum percentage of seats required for appointment of LoP in Lok Sabha.
“There is no minimum percentage prescribed for the selection of the Leader of Opposition,” Under Secretary of the Lok Sabha Secretariat K Sona said in reply to a query by Mumbai-based Right to Information (RTI) activist Anil Galgali.
Galgali had filed an application seeking information on the cumpulsory minimum strength required for appointment of LoP.
Congress president Sonia Gandhi had written a letter to Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan on July 7 requesting for LoP status to the party leader in the House Mallikarjun Kharge.
In her response to Sonia’s letter on August 14, the Speaker had said after considering “applicable provisions” and “past precedents” it was not possible to accede to her request.
“After consideration of applicable provisions of relevant statutes, directions by the Speaker Lok Sabha (Directions 120 and 121) and several past precedents repeatedly followed for the last nearly 60 years which have been based upon decision taken by many eminent Speakers in the past, it has not been found possible to accede to your request,” Mahajan’s letter to Sonia said.
Later, defending her decision which, she said, was based on “rules and tradition”, Mahajan had cited a “rule” that required a party to have a minimum of 10 per cent seats in the House for its leader to be declared the Leader of Opposition.
“I have taken the decision after studying the rules and traditions and after taking experts’ opinion on the issue. No Opposition party has more than 55 (seats). Till date, the rule that a party should have a minimum of 10 per cent seats in the House (for being accorded the status of LoP) has not changed,” she was reported to have said.
The Speaker also said in 1980 and 1984, the House had no Leader of Opposition because no party had the required strength.
The Lok Sabha secretariat also informed the activist that the LoP’s post was vacant in the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 5th, 6th, 7th, and 8th Lok Sabha.
It said the query regarding the requirement of Leader of Opposition for selection of heads of institutions or commissions has been transferred to Law and Justice Ministry.
Amid acrimonious exchanges between Congress and BJP leaders, the Supreme Court had in August decided to go into the issue of interpreting the provision of Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha in the matter of selection of statutory bodies in the absence of a recognised LoP.