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Delhi high court defers hearing of plea seeking appointment of leader of opposition in Lok Sabha

File photo. Photograph:( ANI )

ANI Delhi Jun 26, 2019, 01.48 PM (IST)

The Delhi High Court on Wednesday refused to grant an urgent hearing on a petition seeking a direction to the Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla to appoint a Leader of Opposition in the 17th Lok Sabha.

While asserting that the matter can be heard after the court vacation, a bench of Justices Jyoti Singh and Manoj Kumar Ohri posted the matter for hearing to July 8.

"What is the urgency in the matter? It is a vacation Bench. You are asking for a policy in place for the appointment of the leader of opposition in future. We find there is no urgency in the matter," the bench said. 

A petition in this regard was filed by two advocates -- Manmohan Singh Narula and Susmita Kumari -- contending that the denial of leadership to the second largest party in Parliament "sets a wrong precedent and dilutes democracy."Since the Leader of Opposition is a "statutory post" and the Speaker is performing a "statutory duty" in recognising the Leader of Opposition, he or she cannot exercise any discretion in the matter, the petition stated.

"There is no room for ifs and buts, under the Salaries and Allowances of Leaders of Opposition in Parliament Act, 1977, the duty of the Speaker is to recognise the eligible person," the petitioner submitted.

He said that recognising a member of the house as the Leader of Opposition is not a political or arithmetical decision but a statutory decision. 

"The Speaker has to merely ascertain whether the party claiming this post is the largest party in the opposition," the petition stated. On June 18, senior Congress leader and West Bengal MP Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury was named by the Congress as its leader in the Lok Sabha. The newly-appointed Speaker Om Birla has, however, not appointed him as the Leader of Opposition yet.