A Supreme Court bench comprising of CJI R.M. Lodha, Justice Kurian Joseph and Justice R.F. Nariman yesterday ruled that a decision taken by the Lok Sabha speaker in the House is not open to judicial review, dismissing as withdrawn a PIL filed by Advocate M.L. Sharma. The PIL reportedly challenged the ruling by the then Lok Sabha speaker G.V. Mavalankar wherein he had ruled that for an opposition party to be recognized so with its leader being the Leader of Opposition, it must have a minimum of 10 percent seats of the sanctioned strength of the House.
Sharma had demanded Congress leader in Lok Sabha to be appointed as the Leader of Opposition, as it is the largest party in opposition, satisfying the criterion under the 1977 law on salary and allowances of leaders of opposition in parliament.
Opposing his argument, Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi had submitted that the Congress leader in Lok Sabha could not be treated as leader of opposition as the party does not have a minimum of 55 seats that it should have to be accorded the status of recognized opposition party. He had then referred to the first Lok Sabha Speaker’s ruling which said that to hold the proceedings of the house, minimum of 10 percent members of the total strength should be present and that should also be the minimum strength of the main opposition party to be recognised as principal opposition party and its leader as leader of opposition.
Sharma had asserted in his PIL that the question of the leader of opposition in Lok Sabha could not be mixed up with the statutory provision which says that party securing 10 percent of the total strength of the Lok Sabha could only be accorded the status of the recognized opposition party in lower house.
“The criteria of the leader of opposition has to be read in conformity with Section 2 of the Salary and Allowances of Leaders of Opposition in Parliament Act, 1977 and cannot be substituted with the concept of recognized parties as advised by the Attorney General,” said Sharma in his PIL.
The Court rapped Sharma for seeking the quashing of the decision “without any homework, without any material” and stated, “This is becoming too much and too much has its repercussions.”
Mavalankar was the Lok Sabha Speaker from May 15, 1952, to Feb 27, 1956. This ruling might spell trouble for Congress if its demand for being accorded the post of the Leader of Opposition is not paid heed to by the Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan.