Saturday, December 9, 2023

Supreme Court issues notice on BJP councillor plea against HC order dismissing recognition as leader of opposition

The same was challenged before the High Court which had upheld the decision of the Mayor and dismissed his petition.

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The Supreme Court on Thursday issued notice on a plea by a BJP Councillor in the Mumbai Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) against the order of Bombay High Court which had dismissed his plea to recognize him as a Leader of Opposition (LOP).

A three-judge bench of Chief Justice S.A. Bobde, A.S. Bopanna and V. Ramasubramanian heard the matter through video conferencing. While hearing, the petitioners counsel submitted that LOP status given to Congress party, though it is a part of ruling coalition.

CJI questioned, Opposition leader is part of ruling coalition?

The Court directed respondents to file its reply.

The petition has been filed by Prabhakar Tukaram Shinde elected Councillor in the MCGM from the BJP, representing Prabhag No. 106, T-Ward & recently has been appointed as a group leader of the BJP. He had filed a writ petition in the Bombay High Court to get himself appointed as the Leader of Opposition (LOP) as the BJP is largest opposition party in the MCGM, but the same was dismissed by the Court.

Following which, he has moved the Supreme Court against the Bombay High Court order and make, State of Maharashtra, the MCGM and the Mayor of MCGM and Ravi Raja (present leader of the opposition), as party respondents.

In the background of the case;

The elections for electing Councillors of the MCGM were conducted on 21.02.17, and the results were Shiv Sena with 84 seats, BJP with 82 seats and INC with 31 seats and others.

A meeting of all the above 82 elected Councillors of the BJP was held at which it was unanimously decided that one Mr. Manoj Kotak would be the Group Leader of the BJP in the MCGM.

In the General Body Meeting of the MCGM held on 30th March, 2017, respondent no 4 (Ravi Raja from the INC) demanded that the post of Leader of Opposition be given to the BJP, considering that it is the largest Party in Opposition, and in case the BJP declines, then it be given to the Indian National Congress (INC) being the 2nd largest Party in Opposition. The Mayor had sought the legal opinion from Legal Department of the MCGM which had opined that the LOP should be given to the second largest party i.e. BJP, in case, it declines, then it should be given to the third largest party i.e. INC.

Following the aforesaid, a meeting of the MCGM was convened on 11th April, 2017. At this meeting, Mr. Manoj Kotak, the Group Leader of the BJP was offered the post of the Leader of Opposition. However, he informed the Mayor (Respondent no 3) that BJP was not interested in occupying the post of Leader of Opposition. Since the BJP declined/ refused to accept the post of Leader of Opposition the Mayor in accordance with the Legal Advice had offered the INC for the said, and then the LOP was appointed from INC.

Later, the petitioner being appointed as the Group Leader of the BJP had approached the Mayor to appoint him as Leader of Opposition but the same was declined by the Mayor. The same was challenged before the High Court which had upheld the decision of the Mayor and dismissed his petition.

It is the Petitioner’s case that the BJP always was the single largest party in opposition and hence was entitled (post the 2017 Elections) to be recognised as the largest Party in Opposition and its leader recognised as the Leader of Opposition. The BJP has passed over its right to the post of Leader of Opposition and by following the due process of law, which process the BJP has also accepted.

The High Court had held that, “The limited change, if any, that the Petitioner intends for this Court to consider is that, “though, the BJP has earlier decided not to be active in opposition, due to changed political equations, BJP has now decided to discharge the role of an efective and active opposition party.” Further, the Petitioner has also stated, “What is relevant is that BJP now seeks to do so and the Petitioner does not invite the Court to rule upon the rationale of its decision to do so.” In view of such submissions, there is no occasion to consider any pre or post poll alliance. Hence Dismissed.”

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