Saturday, April 17, 2021

The verdict is out!

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Finally, much awaited verdict of the Supreme Court is out. It is loud and clear. The Court has reinstated the parliament that got dissolved on 20 December 2020.

Given the absurd Q&A taking place inside the courtroom, people were increasingly feeling uncomfortable with the outcome. Therefore, they were interested more on knowing “when” rather than “what” the verdict will be. People are excited not just because the verdict was issued swiftly but it also cleared the doubts over possible “setting arrangements” designed by PM KP Sharma Oli.

The last minute meeting between the Chief Justice and the Army Chief also had made people suspicious of the court verdict. However, the verdict came as a big surprise to the people and, moreover, as a gift to the PM celebrating his 70th birthday.

Earlier, 13 writ petitioners had requested the court to reinstate the parliament. The court had issued 13 days of notification to reinstate the parliament. To birthday celebrating PM Oli, number 13 did not turned out to be a lucky number. While his arch enemy Comrade Pushpa Kamal Dahal "Prachanda" is calling for his resignation on moral grounds, his advisors are still challenging that PM Oli will not resign rather face the parliament. They are warning that the court verdict is not only “unexpected” but it is going to destabilize the country.

People are already asking “what next?” The ball is now in the court of the Election Commission. The Commission may be sighing with relief from not having to hold elections in April/May but it still got a hard nut to crack, i.e., to decide on the legitimacy claims by the two rival factions of Nepal Communist Party. And those recently getting posh jobs in constitutional bodies must be having sleepless nights. I did mention, “marne belama hariyo kankro”.  

Bold verdict

Simply going by the number of pages (15 pages in total but actual material worth reading is less than 10) and the use of simple language (remember, legal language is often incomprehensible and shrouded in ambiguity), the verdict is definitely a bold one. The Court deserves salutation.

Five judges and five questions        

The five sitting judges, including Chief Justice, at the Constitutional Bench had to grapple with five moot questions related to writ petition against parliament dissolution. These included:

  1. Is it a political issue that lies outside the realm of jurisdiction of the court?
  2. Is it constitutional?
  3. Are the uses of the Articles 76(1) and (7) and 85 to dissolve the parliament constitutional?
  4. Is there malafide intention in the dissolution of the parliament?
  5. Is it necessary to issue an order (certiorari writ) as requested by the petitioners?

Literally, the Court has saved the face of the PM by avoiding answering Q4 above on malafide intention to dissolve the parliament. Otherwise, he could be impeached. The court dropped the question referring to party laws governing the selection of party leader, vote of no-trust motion and, moreover, unconstitutionality of the move being proved from answering Q1-Q3 above. This is the only ground on which PM Oli is standing not to resign.

The court verdict is going to be a landmark one in a sense that it has defined Nepal’s parliamentary system to be different from that of the others and a PM with a majority does not have a prerogative to dissolve the parliament. The parliament is expected to enjoy a full term of five years unless PM cannot be appointed. The court has restored the supremacy of the parliament. This time, CJ Cholendra SJB Rana put himself into a different height from the earlier damage he inflicted while issuing a “poetic verdict” related to the impeachment of the CJ Sushila Karki.

Meanwhile, Comrade Prachanda is diplomatic by admitting he is not interested becoming the next PM and assuring no impeachment motion against the President. I suppose, he knows who the real enemy is. He is also thankful to the judges for issuing a bold verdict.       

Published on 24 February 2021

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