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The apex court takes on the NDA govt for not reaching a consensus over LoP in Lok Sabha

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An assertive Supreme Court, which had consis-tently kept the UPA govern-ment on tenterhooks by questioning its policies and showing zero tolerance for corruption, is continuing with its aggression and activism against the NDA regime.

The apex court on Friday took on the NDA government for the seventh time in the three months since it assumed office, question-ing the delay and lack of consen-sus in choosing a Leader of Opposition(LoP) in the Lok Sabha, which has put the selec-tion of the Lokpal in limbo and will affect appointments to sev-eral other constitutional posts in the CBI, CVC and NHRC. The LoP is a key member in the selec-tion panel for all these posts.

As the second largest party in the Lok Sabha with 44 seats, Congress has been demanding the LoP post for itself but the Speaker, taking into considera-tion the opinion rendered by the Attorney General, has rejected it by saying the party does not have the requisite 10 per cent of seats – 55 in the 543-member House.
In this context, a bench headed by Chief Justice R.M. Lodha stepped in and decided to go into the issue of interpreting the provision of LoP in the Lok Sabha for appointing members of statutory bodies in a sit-uation where there is no recog-nised LoP as in the current scenario. The court also gave the government an ultimatum to decide the issue in two weeks.

Slamming the absence of the LoP, Lodha said, “The person holding the post is the voice rep-resenting the view different from the government. Statute pre-supposes the existence of a LoP. Important appointments like the Lokpal cannot be kept in cold storage for want of such a post. Why does not the govern-ment realize that LoP is also essential for a fair selection to other constitutional posts also?”

The court granted the government two weeks to make its stand clear and come prepared at the next date of hearing on September 9. Noting that the matter is very significant, the bench rejected the plea of the govern-ment, which sought four weeks to pre-pare on the issue.

The government informed the court that the Lokpal Act is under review and some provisions of it will be amended. The government, however, refused to specify what is being reviewed.

By intervening in the LoP issue, the country’s top court once again made it clear that it is determined to keep the central government on a tight leash. It has already emerged as an institution that is taking on the government on cru-cial issues, especially in the absence of an effective opposition party in the Lok Sabha.

Earlier, it warned the government against interfering with the independence of the judiciary by rejecting its recommendation to appoint former solicitor general Gopal Subramanium as a judge of the Supreme Court. Chief Jus-tice Lodha, who has publicly backed the collegium system and slammed the Judicial Appoint-ments Commission bill as a viola-tion of the separation of powers, has also decided to look into the validity of the bill that gives the executive a major say in appointing judges.

After seven governors appointed by the UPA were given marching orders by the NDA government, the apex court, acting on a petition filed by one of them, Uttarakhand Governor Aziz Qureshi, said it will have a re-look at rules regarding the removal of governors.

Fuming at the delay in the formation of a government in Delhi, the court recently asked the Delhi LG and the Centre to resolve the deadlock in five weeks, saying “MLAs cannot be allowed to sit at home enjoying free salary which was the taxpayers’ hard earned money and peo-ple made to suffer”.

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