The Congress on Saturday hit back at Attorney General Mukul Rohatgi for opining that the party had no claim to the post of the Leader of Opposition in Lok Sabha and alleged that his view on the matter was aimed at "pleasing the political masters".
"The AG's opinion is not worth the paper on which it is written. It is unfortunate that the AG has given an opinion to please his political masters. The AG is just providing an apology for the blatantly partisan approach of a confrontational government.
"I do not know to which law the AG has referred with regard to the LoP. The AG is expected to have a better understanding of law and statutes not to give such an opinion, which belittles his office," Congress spokesperson Anand Sharma told reporters in New Delhi.
Dealing a blow to Congress's bid to secure the LoP's post, the AG has opined that the party has no case for claiming the same. There is no precedence to backs its case since the days of the first Lok Sabha, the AG has said.
Rohatgi conveyed his views to Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan after she sought his opinion in the matter, sources said.
Sharma also accused the government of "trying to pressurise" Mahajan on the LoP issue even as he urged her to take a "fair" decision in the matter.
Maintaining that the appointments in which the LoP's role is mandated would get "vitiated" if made in the absence of the representative of the Opposition, Sharma said that the party has not ruled out the possibility of approaching the courts if it is denied the post.
"All this reveals the intention of the government... They are trying to pressurise the Speaker... The Speaker should act impartially," Sharma said.
Sources said the AG has opined that the Congress is not entitled to the LoP's post as it does not have the required 10 per cent (55) seats in the 543-member Lok Sabha. The Congress has only 44 seats.
"We hope that the Speaker will reject this opinion, which is just to please the executive, and do what is correct. This is a test for the Speaker and for Indian parliamentary democracy," Sharma added.
Sharma said the law is clear on the question of the LoP and there is no stipulation about a party needing to have at least 10 per cent of the membership of the House.
He said there is a clear-cut law regarding the LoP, which was passed in 1977 and amended in 2003. It clearly states that the party with the largest number of members on the Opposition side should get the LoP's post, Sharma added.
"Speaker's ruling, directives or for that matter any subordinate legislation cannot modify, cannot override and cannot dilute this law. There is no law which says otherwise," he said.
Asked whether the Congress will move court if denied the post, Sharma said, "There are other ways as well. Whatever remedies are available to the Congress, we will use that. Either the country will run as per the law or its 'manmaani' that needs to be decided."
When told the BJP is arguing that the absence of the LoP will not make any difference as such, Sharma said it was a sign of "mental bankruptcy" and "legal illiteracy". He also rejected the contention that there was no LoP on many occasions in the past when the Congress was in power, saying there was no point citing examples from 30 years ago.
Claiming that every attempt is being made to deny the LoP's post to Congress, Sharma said if that was done, it would be "in direct conflict with law".