NEW DELHI: Former Lok Sabha Speaker and ex-CPM leader Somnath Chatterjee on Sunday echoed the view that the Lok Sabha Speaker could take a call on formally according the status of Leader of Opposition(LOP) despite “no clear applicable rule”, even as he insisted that a 10 per cent strength in the Upper House was needed for a party to rightfully stake the claim to the Constitutional post. “As far as I know 10 per cent of the membership of the House (is required).I think this should be left to the discretion of Speaker (Sumitra Mahajan),” he said.
And Somnath, currently on a visit here, also said the Speaker’s call to designate a member of the Opposition as LOP will help to resolve the issue of Parliament not having an LoP. “I believe for proper functioning (of the Lok Sabha), someone should be designated as LOP, which recognises the important role of the Opposition in an elected democratic setup.”
“That will also put an end to the fact that Parliament does not have an LOP, which will weaken the democratic system we have adopted,” Somnath, who presided over the 14th Lok Sabha from 2004 to 2009, added.
According to him while the 10 per cent strength in the Lok Sabha was a pre-requisite for an Opposition party to get the status of LOP, he said the decision to accord the status should be left to the Speaker’s discretion when there was no party with the required strength in the House. “Therefore, I feel even if there is no clear applicable rule, the Speaker may kindly in her discretion designate a member of the House to be the LOP. Who will be designated (as LOP) should be decided by the number of members that different parties have in the House,” he said.
The former Lok Sabha Speaker’s remarks come in the wake of Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi’s counsel to Mahajan that the Congress, which has 44 members in the Lok Sabha, is not eligible for the LoP, which is a Cabinet-rank post. Rohatgi had noted that there was no precedent since the days of the first Lok Sabha to grant the post to a party, which did not have the minimum required number of MPs.