The Supreme Court sought the response of the Uttar Pradesh Legislative Council chairman’s office on Friday on a plea moved by Samajwadi Party (SP) MLC Lal Bihari Yadav, challenging an Allahabad High Court order that upheld the withdrawal of his recognition as the leader of opposition.
A bench of Chief Justice DY Chandrachud and Justices PS Narasimha and JB Pardiwala agreed to hear Yadav’s plea and issued a notice to the office of the Uttar Pradesh Legislative Council chairman, whose notification dated July 7, 2022 withdrew the petitioner’s recognition as the LoP.
Senior advocate Shyam Divan, appearing in the court on behalf of Yadav, said the LoP is the leader of the single-largest opposition party in the House.
The bench said what it understands by an opposition party is a political party that is not part of the government.
“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 bench said.
Divan said the Uttar Pradesh Legislative Council has 100 members, of whom 90 are elected and 10 nominated, and the notification from the House chairman’s office says the LoP will be from a party that enjoys at least 10 per cent of the total strength of the House.
The bench asked Divan how many members does the SP have in the house.
Divan replied, “It is nine but our understanding is that the leader of the single-largest opposition party is recognised as the leader of the opposition.”
He referred to a situation in the Delhi Assembly, where the opposition once had only three members out of 70 but still, the LoP was recognised.
Divan said in his view, the court has to interpret the provisions of the Uttar Pradesh State Legislature (Members’ Emoluments and Pension) Act, 1980. The bench said it will issue a notice and look into the provisions.
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On October 21 last year, the Lucknow bench of the Allahabad High Court had dismissed Yadav’s plea that had challenged 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 — the minimum number of members required for the largest opposition party to get the post.
Yadav has pleaded that the principal secretary’s decision was “illegal and arbitrary”.
He has sought a direction to stay the operation of the July 7, 2022 notification by which his recognition as the LoP in the Uttar Pradesh Legislative Council was withdrawn.
The SP leader has also sought the quashing of the notification.