The Jharkhand government on Tuesday told the high court that BJP state president Babulal Marandi cannot be made the leader of the opposition in the assembly as a defection case against him is yet to be cleared.
Appearing for the state government, advocate Kapil Sibal submitted that Marandi had contested the 2019 assembly election as a Jharkhand Vikas Morcha (Prajatantrik) candidate, and after winning, merged his party with the BJP.
Marandi, a former chief minister, was later elected as leader of the BJP Legislative Party.
However, as a defection case is pending against him before the Speaker’s court, he does not qualify as the leader of the opposition, Sibal argued.
Kumar Harsh, the counsel of the BJP, said that Marandi’s name has been proposed as the leader of the opposition by the saffron party, which is the largest in the opposition bench.
The court will again hear the matter on August 30.
A division bench headed by Chief Justice Sanjaya Kumar Mishra was hearing a public interest litigation seeking the appointment of Information Commissioners in the state, which is pending for want of a leader of the opposition in the assembly.
Under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, Information Commissioners can only be appointed by a Committee of which the leader of the opposition is a member.
The appointment committee of which the leader of the opposition is a member is also responsible for recommending names for various posts of the State Human Rights Commission, Lokayukt and other commissions which are lying vacant for a long time.
Marandi, also a former Union minister, had on February 17, 2020, merged his Jharkhand Vikas Morcha (Prajatantrik) with the BJP in the presence of Union Home Minister Amit Shah in Ranchi. He was unanimously elected as leader of the BJP Legislative Party on February 24 the same year.
Speaker Rabindranath Mahto had then initiated proceedings against him under the anti-defection law suo motu. He completed the hearing in August 2022 and reserved the judgment.
Earlier this year, the high court had dismissed a petition challenging the anti-defection proceedings against him by the Speaker.