According the Leader of the Opposition status to the leader of the single largest opposition party constituting 1/10th of the total strength of the House is a decades-old convention, the Uttar Pradesh Legislative Council told the Supreme Court on Monday, urging it not to interfere with the practice.
Senior advocate KV Viswanathan, appearing for the chairman of the legislative council, told a bench of Chief Justice DY Chandrachud and Justice JB Pardiwala that the court should refrain from interfering with the procedure laid down by the House for the appointment of the LoP.
“This practice has been followed for years and by all barring a few exceptions. Leader of the single largest opposition party is accorded the status of leader of opposition provided they meet the quorum of 1/10 of the total house. I request this court to not interfere with the procedure laid down by the House,” he said.
The legislative council filed its reply to a petition by a Samajwadi Party (SP) MLC Lal Bihari Yadav, who has challenged an Allahabad High Court order that upheld the withdrawal of his recognition as the leader of the opposition.
Observing that a House of legislature must have an LoP, the top court had on April 10 asked the Uttar Pradesh Legislative Council Chairman’s office to file its response to the plea.
On February 10, the top court had agreed to hear Yadav’s plea.
The chairman of the Upper House of the state legislature had withdrawn Yadav’s LoP status vide a notification dated July 7, 2022.
On Yadav’s submission that the leader of the single-largest opposition party is designated as the LoP, the top court had said, “What we have to see is whether there is any restriction provided under the statute that the leader of the opposition will be the one from the party having a certain number of seats.”
The UP Legislative Council is a 100-member House with 90 elected and 10 nominated lawmakers.
The notification issued by the chairman’s office says the LoP will be from a party that has at least 10 per cent of the total strength of the House.
Yadav has contended the SP should get the LoP’s post as it has nine members which constitutes 10 per cent of the 90 elected members. The government has contested the argument, saying only a party having 10 per cent of the total strength of the House is eligible to have its leader appointed as the LoP.
On October 21 last year, the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court had dismissed Yadav’s plea challenging the notification issued by the principal secretary of the Legislative Council de-recognising him as the LoP.
The high court had said in view of the prevailing law, Yadav did not have an inalienable right to be appointed or to continue as the LoP.
It had said the Uttar Pradesh State Legislature (Members’ Emoluments and Pension) Act, 1980 does not prescribe any mechanism for recognising an LoP.
“The chairman of the Vidhan Parishad was not bound to be guided only by the criterion of recognising the leader of an opposition party, which has the greatest numerical strength. The rules provide for discretion of the respondent no.1 (legislative council chairman) to recognise and/or de-recognise a leader of opposition,” it had said.
According to the petition, Yadav was elected as an MLC in 2020 and designated as the LoP in the Legislative Council on May 27, 2020.
But the Legislative Council Secretariat de-recognised him as the LoP when the SP’s strength in the House fell short of 10.
Yadav, while calling the notification “illegal and arbitrary”, has sought its quashing.