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SC issues notice on BJP leader's plea, wants Mumbai mayor's response in 15 days

Hindustan Times logo Hindustan Times 21-01-2021 Abraham Thomas
a large brick building with a clock tower: Issuing a notice on Shinde’s petition, a three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) SA Bobde asked the MCGM and its Mayor to respond whether the power to have a Leader of Opposition for the House could be exercised only once during the term of the House. (HT FILE PHOTO). © Provided by Hindustan Times Issuing a notice on Shinde’s petition, a three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) SA Bobde asked the MCGM and its Mayor to respond whether the power to have a Leader of Opposition for the House could be exercised only once during the term of the House. (HT FILE PHOTO).

The Supreme Court on Thursday set out to examine a plea by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) staking claim for the post of the Leader of the Opposition in the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) which currently has the Mayor and the LOP, both belonging to different political parties but having allegiance to the same ruling coalition in the state.

The plea before the court was made by BJP councillor Prabhakar Tukaram Shinde, who is currently the Group Leader of the BJP in MCGM.

Issuing a notice on Shinde’s petition, a three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice of India (CJI) SA Bobde asked the MCGM and its Mayor to respond whether the power to have a Leader of Opposition for the House could be exercised only once during the term of the House.

The bench, also comprising Justices AS Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian said, “We want to know if the power of the Mayor (in appointing a Leader of Opposition) once exercised cannot be exercised again.” Shinde’s petition was aggrieved by the order passed by the Mayor on March 5, 2020 rejecting his demand to be made Leader of Opposition in MCGM.

In the 227-member House, Shiv Sena has 97 councillors while the second largest party having numerical strength is the BJP with 83 seats. The Indian National Congress (INC) with only 29 seats presently has its member as Leader of Opposition. In 2017, when elections to MCGM were held, BJP remained neutral and decided against taking up the post of the Leader of Opposition. Thus the post fell in favour of INC councillor Ravi Raja.

Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi who appeared for Shinde said, “When the leader of the largest opposition party is willing to take up the responsibility of the leader of opposition, the law does not deny him the same merely because he had initially expressed unwillingness to do so for various considerations.” Shinde had earlier approached the Bombay High Court which rejected his petition on September 21 last year.

The CJI-headed bench asked Rohatgi, “You chose not to be the leader of opposition.” Rohatgi said that the matter involved the interpretation of Section 37-IA which provides that the post of Leader of Opposition is not permanent and can be changed looking at the changed political dynamics in the state. This fact was recorded by Shinde in his petition, stating, “This arrangement wherein member of the ruling coalition occupy the Treasury as well as post of Leader of Opposition is nothing but a mockery of democracy.”

Senior advocate C Aryama Sundaram appeared for the MCGM and the Mayor and agreed to respond to Shinde’s petition. The bench sought their response in 15 days and made it clear to all parties that the issue will be decided on the next date of hearing and the matter shall be disposed. The tenure of the House is due to get over by February 2022. Shinde told the Court, “Four years have gone by. I want to be appointed as leader of opposition for at least one year.”

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