"In the absence of the LoP, the selection committee would be dominated by the central government - 3:1 - with the judicial member being in a minority. Surely, this is not what Parliament had intended when it drew up the Lokpal selection process," said Venkatesh Nayak, an activist working for promoting the Right to Information (RTI) Act.
The chairperson and members of Lokpal are to be selected by a committee headed by the Prime Minister and having four other members -- the Lok Sabha Speaker, Leader of Opposition in the Lower House, the Chief Justice of India or a judge of the apex court nominated by him, and an eminent jurist who could be nominated by the President or any other member.
"The fifth member must be an eminent jurist who may be nominated by all four members including the LoP in Lok Sabha. So the LoP is an important member in the Lokpal selection panel and a necessity for all other statutory appointments," said Nayak. Another activist, Ajay Dubey, also laid emphasis on the importance of LoP.
"LoP acts as the voice of opposition. It is essential to end the government's influence in the selection process of Lokpal and other authorities, and keep them fair," said Dubey of Transparency International.
Congress is the second largest party in the Lok Sabha with 44 seats after BJP's 282 and has been insisting that it should be given the status of the Leader of Opposition.
However, citing rules, Speaker Sumitra Mahajan has conveyed to Congress that she was not in a position to give the party Leader of Opposition status because it fell short of the minimum 55 seats required for staking claim to the post.
Nayak, however, cited the 1977 parliamentary proceedings when the House had rejected the idea of fixing a quota for claiming the LoP's chair decisively. The LoP Bill was tabled in the Lok Sabha on August 6, 1977. H V Kamath, an MP of the Janata Party, had moved amendment 15 to fix 1/6th as the quota of seats in the House required for any MPs to claim the LoP's chair, said Nayak.
"In support of his amendment proposal, Kamath quoted the directive of G V Mavalankar, First Speaker of the Lok Sabha, where a reference was made to the 10 per cent seat requirement. Another amendment was tabled by CPI(M) MP Samar Mukherjee for using parliamentary conventions and practices to recognise the LoP.
"The amendments were decisively rejected by Janata Party MPs who were in the majority in the Lok Sabha then," he said.
Meanwhile, in a related development, Supreme Court had on Friday decided to go into the issue of interpreting provision of LoP in Lok Sabha in the matter of selection of statutory bodies when there is no recognised LoP.
Asking the government to make its stand clear within two weeks, a bench headed by Chief Justice R M Lodha has emphasised the importance of the post saying Leader of Opposition conveys the voice of representation different from government in the House.