Indian parliament
Indian parliamentReuters file

A Public Interest Litigation (PIL) seeking Leader of Opposition (LoP) status for the Congress in the Lok Sabha was rejected by the Supreme Court on Monday.

The apex court said if the party, which was not present at the petition hearing, wants the LoP status, it can approach on its own, reported Tehelka.

Currently, the pre-Independence-era party holds 44 seats in the Lok Sabha, which is not enough for it to be declared as the Opposition; the Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) holds the majority at 282. The Congress has the second-largest number of seats in the Lok Sabha.

Former railway minister Mallikarjun Kharge is the leader of the Congress in the Lok Sabha. The party had in 2014 appealed that Kharge be given the position of the LoP, but Speaker Sumitra Mahajan had rejected the plea on Attorney General's Mukul Rohatgi argument that the party didn't have enough seats.

Mahajan had said the Congress had fallen short by 11 seats to be given the position of the Opposition. She cited precedents from 1980 and 1984, when there was no Opposition due to the same reason. In 1980, Indira Gandhi was the prime minister and the Congress won 353 seats while in 1984, the Congress had 404 seats and Rajiv Gandhi was declared the prime minister. 

To be declared as the Opposition, a party needs 10 percent or more of the total number of seats in the Lok Sabha, which comes to 55. 

The BJP-led NDA government was formed in 2014 with a total of 336 seats after it won the Lok Sabha elections. Mahajan, in consultation with the government, had decided to go by the book for the 16th Lok Sabha.