NEW DELHI: The Supreme Court Thursday agreed to examine plea of a BJP councillor that as his party is the second largest party in the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) he be given the post of leader of opposition (LoP) in the civic body, presently occupied by a Congress member.
In the civic body, Shiv Sena is the largest party with 84 elected councillors and is followed by BJP and Congress which have 82 and 31 members respectively.
However, the post of leader of opposition is with the Congress party as the BJP, back in 2017, had refused to take it up due its then running coalition with Shiv Sena.
Finding the situation "incongruous", a bench comprising Chief Justice S A Bobde and Justices A S Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian agreed to hear the plea of BJP leader Prabhakar Tukaram Shinde against the Bombay High Court's decision dismissing his plea.
"Issue notice returnable in fifteen days. In the meantime, the respondent-Caveator may file counter affidavit, if any," the bench said in its order while seeking responses from the Maharashtra government, the mayor of the civic body and leader of opposition Ravi Raja.
Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, appearing for the BJP Councilor, submitted by asking can a party be in power in the state government and also occupy the leader of opposition post in the civic body inside the state.
"Opposition leader is part of the ruling coalition," the bench quipped.
There was an understanding with Shiv Sena in 2017 and it has now fizzled out and hence BJP must get back the constitutionally entitled post of LoP as it is the second largest party in the civic body, Rohatgi said.
Senior advocate C A Sundaram, appearing for one of the opposite parties, said the post of LoP was earlier voluntarily refused by BJP and it went to the Congress party after that.
The elections for the civic body was conducted by the State Election Commission on February 21, 2017 and the BJP was the second largest party inside the house and its leader Manoj Kotak elected the group leader on March 3, 2017.
"It is submitted that BJP temporarily had decided not to take up the post of LoP and had rather decided to act as watchdog and remained neutral," the plea said.
In 2019, Manoj Kotak successfully contested the assembly elections from Mumbai north-east seat and resigned from the post of leader of BJP in the MCGM.
"And a letter was sent for appointing petitioner (Prabhakar Tukaram Shinde) as the leader of BJP group and his concomitant recognition as the leader of opposition on February 28, 2020 on the ground that it was the second largest party in the house," it said.
"However, the Mayor decided to appoint Prabhakar Tukaram Shinde as leader of BJP but declined to appoint him as the LoP in MCGM on March 5, 2020 by an erroneous interpretation of Section 37-IA of the Mumbai Municipal Corporation Act, 1888," it said.
It seeks reversal of the Bombay High Court's order dismissing his claim to the post on September 21, 2020.