HC respite for leader of Opposition

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HT Bureau

GUWAHATI, Jan 12: Gauhati High Court on Tuesday stayed the operation of the notification issued by the Assam Legislative Assembly Secretariat on January 1 whereby the Leader of Assam Congress Legislature Party (ACLP), Debabrata Saikia was de-recognised as the leader of the Opposition in the House.

The High Court also issued notices returnable within two weeks to the secretary and principal secretary of Assam Legislative Assembly, along with chief secretary.

Appearing for Saikia in writ petition (C) No. 182/2021, lawyer Satyen Sarma submitted that an MLA holding the position of Leader of the Opposition needs to fulfil two requirements under Rule 2(1)(p) of the Rules of Procedure and Conduct of Business in Assam Legislative Assembly and Section 2 of The Salary and Allowances of the Leader of the Opposition in the Assam Legislative Assembly Act, 1978.

He submitted in the court that firstly, one has to be the Leader of the largest recognised party, i.e. the party having the greatest numerical strength in the Opposition. Secondly, the MLA concerned has to be recognised as the leader of the largest recognised Opposition party by the speaker.

As such, Sarma contended that since Saikia fulfilled both of these requirements and since the notification under challenge did not withdraw his recognition for non-fulfilment of these requirements, he is still legally entitled to remain the Leader of the Opposition.

A single judge bench comprising Justice Achintya Malla Bujor Barua noted that the Congress is indeed the largest recognised party in the Opposition in the House since its MLAs have the greatest numerical strength in the Opposition.

Additionally, there was no material to indicate that Saikia is not the Leader of the Congress Legislature Party. Further, the court noted that the issue of the Congress MLAs not forming one-sixth of the total members of the House is unrelated to recognition of Saikia as Leader of the Opposition as per the relevant Act and Rules.

In such a scenario, the court was of the preliminary view that the notification under challenge was unsustainable under law and the facts of the case. Therefore, in view of Sarma having made out a prima facie case in favour of Saikia and considering the balance of convenience and irreparable injury which may be otherwise caused to Saikia, the court was pleased to stay the operation of the Notification.

Lawyer Sarma was assisted in the court by lawyers Jayanta Deka, Tarun Krishna Bhuyan, Sanjeeb Kumar Deka and Angaj Gautam.


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