SC seeks response on Cong getting opposition seat in Maha civic body
New Delhi, Jan 21 (IANS) The political dynamics in Maharashtra posed an unexpected surprise for the Supreme Court on Thursday, as it wondered how the Congress — despite being in the ruling coalition in Maharashtra — could enjoy the post of leader of opposition (LoP) in the Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM).
A bench headed by Chief Justice S. A. Bobde queried, could the Congress hold position of LoP and also be a part of ruling coalition in Maharashtra? Senior advocate Mukul Rohatgi, representing BJP Councillor Prabhakar Tukaram Shinde, contended that this is completely fatal to democracy. “How can you have this?” Mukul submitted before the bench also comprising Justices A. S. Bopanna and V. Ramasubramanian.
The Chief Justice noted, “the Opposition leader is part of the ruling coalition?” The bench queried Rohatgi, why didn’t you claim it earlier? He replied that there was an understanding with the Shiv Sena, which has now fizzled out, as the political dynamics have changed after the 2019 Legislative Assembly election. Rohatgi added that BJP being the largest party in opposition, must get back the constitutionally entitled post.
The top court issued notice to Maharashtra government and others and directed the parties to file counter affidavit, and adjourned the matter.
Shinde, who moved the court through advocate Hitesh Jain, contended that after the 2017 elections to the Mumbai civic body, BJP emerged as the second largest party, after Shiv Sena. In the backdrop of its alliance with Shiv Sena then, the BJP had declined the status of LoP, and as a result, the position went to the Congress party. Since the political dynamics have changed in Maharashtra, the BJP raised the demand for LoP status, as the ‘Maha Vikas Agadi’ coalition had begun to govern Maharashtra after the 2019 assembly polls.
Shinde, who is leader of the BJP group seeking LoP status, moved the top court after the Bombay High Court declined to grant him any relief citing that the BJP had voluntarily given up the LoP status. “In present case, the BJP group, the second largest group, which had earlier decided to stay neutral in the MCGM has now decided to take over the role of the principal opposition group therein. Therefore, the dynamics pertaining to the party with greatest numerical strength in the opposition has changed with BJP group replacing the INC group”, said the plea.
The plea contended that having an effective and genuine opposition is one of the non-negotiable essentials of any democratic set-up and refusal to accept it is an onslaught on the democratic governance envisaged under the Constitution.