By S. Binodkumar Singh *
In a blow to Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli on June 22, 2021, the Supreme Court (CS) overturned the appointments of 20 ministers, including 17 cabinet ministers and three ministers of state, citing Article 77 (3) of the Constitution.
The SC ordinance stated: “The appointments of June 4 and 10 by the president on the recommendation of Cabinet are contrary to the intent and spirit of the constitution. An interim order has been issued not to allow ministers to perform their duties until the matter is resolved.
On June 4, Prime Minister Oli appointed 10 ministers and two ministers of state. On June 10, he added seven more cabinet ministers and a minister of state to his cabinet.
On June 7, 2021, six people, including lead lawyer Tripathi and lawyers Raj Kumar Suwal, Shalikram Sapkota, Kanchan Krishna Neupane, Birendra Prasad Sah and Sitadevi Shrestha had filed the writs demanding that the Cabinet extensions by the interim government be rescinded. .
On May 21, 2021, President Bidya Devi Bhandari dissolved the House of Representatives on the recommendation of the Oli cabinet. President Bhandari also announced that midterm elections would be held on November 12-19, 2021, a year ahead of schedule.
According to forecasts, on May 24, 2021, 146 lawmakers filed a lawsuit with the Supreme Court, demanding the re-establishment of the House of Representatives. These included 61 members of Parliament from the Nepalese Congress (NC), 49 from the Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist Center (CPN-Maoist Center), 23 from the Madhav Kumar Nepal faction of the Communist Party of Nepal-Marxist-Leninist United (CPN -UML), 12 from the Upendra Yadav-Baburam Bhattarai of the Janata Samajbadi Party (JSP) and one from Rastriya Janamorcha Nepal (RJN).
Opposition parties have filed up to 30 lawsuits against the president’s decision, arguing that the dissolution of the House of Representatives was unconstitutional. Of 30 writs, 19 were filed seeking an interim order on the dissolution of the House of Representatives, while 11 writ requests were filed requiring the writs to be heard by the Constitutional Chamber.
On May 27, 2021, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Cholendra Shumsher Rana, announced that the Constitutional Chamber of the Court would decide the fate of the 30 petitions against the dissolution of the House of Representatives by President Bidya Bhandari. Finally, on June 23, 2021, the Court began hearings on the Motions in Brief.
Significantly, the House of Representatives was first dissolved on December 20, 2020 by President Bhandari, endorsing the recommendation of the Oli government. The President also approved the Cabinet recommendation to hold general elections on April 30 and May 10, 2021. It is expected that on December 21, 2020, 11 motions in brief were filed with the Supreme Court, challenging the dissolution of the House of Representatives, even though the whole opposition took to the streets.
In a landmark verdict on February 23, 2021, the Supreme Court’s constitutional bench restored the House of Representatives. The Supreme Court called Prime Minister Oli’s decision to dissolve the House of Representatives unconstitutional and overturned all decisions relating to the dissolution of the House. The court also ordered the government to convene a session of the House within 13 days.
On March 1, 2021, President Bidya Devi Bhandari called the first meeting of the House of Representatives. The President called for the opening of the House of Representatives on the recommendation of the Nepalese government, in accordance with article 93 (1) of the Constitution.
The Nepalese Communist Party (NCP) which had emerged after the merger CPN-UML and CPN-Center Maoist on May 17, 2018, suffered a vertical division on December 22, 2020, almost 31 months after the merger. On March 7, 2021, the Supreme Court invalidated the merger of the two parties, even as the internal rupture within the CPN-UML worsened.
On May 5, 2021, the CPN-Maoist Center withdrew its support for the government led by Oli. As expected, on May 10, the Oli government failed to gain the confidence of parliament in a vote in the House of Representatives. Oli even lost the support of many CPN-UML lawmakers, who sided with Madhav Kumar Nepal. On the same day, May 10, President Bhandari called on any leader of a political party who could obtain a majority of the votes in Parliament, with the support of two or more parties, to claim the post of Prime Minister in accordance with Article 76 ( 2). of the Constitution. In issuing a notice on the evening of May 10, President Bhandari asked such a deputy to make a claim before 9 p.m. on May 13. The constitutional provisions required such a candidate to submit the signatures of a majority of lawmakers belonging to two or more political parties. to Parliament, to the Presidency within the time limit. As no one could muster the required support, the president re-appointed Oli as prime minister on May 13. Again, on May 20, President Bhandari called on the parties to demand the formation of the government, in accordance with article 76 (5), on May 21. However, as the meeting ended in a deadlock, the Cabinet recommended the dissolution of the House of Representatives.
The intra-party crisis is not only visible in the traditional communist parties, but also in the groups involved in the violence. The Netra Bikram Chand a.k.a Nepalese-Maoist Communist Party led by Biplav (CPN-Maoist-Chand) which reached a three point agreement with the outgoing government on March 4, 2021, has already seen divisions within the group. On May 1, 2021, CPN-Maoist-Chand broke up after politburo member Krishna Prasad Dhamala a.k.a Gambhir revolted to form a new party, the Jana Samajwadi Manch-Nepal (JSM-N). Meanwhile, three months after signing the agreement with the government, in an interview with Himalayan Television Airing on June 2, 2021, Chand said his party was not yet in peaceful politics:
We did not say that we had arrived at a peaceful policy. It was just that we were ready to present our views peacefully. I think we shouldn’t classify politics as peaceful and violent. This understanding is wrong. Also underground, we played peaceful politics
All this political chaos in the country began in April 2020 when the differences between the two co-chairs of the then NCP – Oli and Pushpa Kamal Dahal – began to escalate. Since then, the environment of unrest, with demonstrations – some of them violent – has failed to defuse itself.
The protracted political problem in Nepal has not only increased political instability in the country, but has also created a growing potential for escalation into violence due to possible action by opportunist formations such as the Chand group.
* S. Binodkumar Singh
Research associate, Institute for Conflict Management