SC seeks Centre’s opinion over ‘leader of opposition’ on panel for appointment in statutory bodies

According to the Parliament rules, a party would need a minimum of 10 per cent of the total strength in the House for one of its members to be considered as the leader of the opposition.

The Supreme court Monday sought a response from the Central government on a plea that the leader of the single largest opposition party is treated as the ‘Leader of the Opposition’ and be included in high-level committees, involved in the appointment of heads of statutory bodies like Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI), Central Vigilance Commission (CVC), Central Information Commission (CIC) and the Lokpal.

A Bench headed by Chief Justice of India Ranjan Gogoi on Monday issued a notice to the Centre, and the four statutory bodies, on a petition raising the issue. Petitioner Youth for Equality has sought a direction that wherever the appointing committee includes the Leader of the Opposition, it should be read as to mean the leader of the single largest opposition party in that House.

The apex court also sought a response from the Centre on the plea by NGO, seeking the quashing of section 17A of the Prevention of Corruption Act which provides a blanket protection to all public servants regardless of status from enquiry in graft cases and mandates a prior sanction.

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The PIL also wanted the court to issue a direction for the unanimous vote of the committee in these appointments. However, the SC bench refused to accept this and decided to restrict itself to the other two issues.

Advocate Gopal Sankaranarayanan, who appeared in behalf of the NGO, contended that the amendment in the anti-graft law was discriminatory, manifestly arbitrary and ultra vires of Articles 14 and 21 of the Constitution.

The plea, demanding the leader of the opposition in the appointment committee should be considered as the leader of the single largest party opposition party said that, in cases where the leader of the opposition is not explicitly recognised, they would be merely called upon as “invitee, thereby subverting the statutory intent”.

According to the rules in the parliament, a party would need a minimum of 10 per cent of the total strength in the House so that one of its members could be considered as the leader of the opposition. The Congress though is the single largest party in opposition, it does not have the required number of seats to be the leader of the opposition.

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