Monday, August 2, 2021

What to make of Supreme Court stay order against cabinet expansion?


With the Supreme Court issuing an interim order against the Cabinet expansion by the KP Sharma Oli Government, social media and online news portals are rife with views, opinions, and speculations over the court decision. 

On June 22, the Supreme Court ruled Cabinet expansions after the dissolution of the House to be unconstitutional, thereby barring the ministers to discharge their duties. The court argued that with the dissolution of the House, the government is reduced to the status of a caretaker and a caretaker government has no authority, as per the constitution, to expand the Cabinet.

PM Oli had expanded his Cabinet on June 4 and June 10, inducting 17 ministers and three state ministers. For the benefit of the readers, the scribe will summarize here some of the views and opinions being circulating around in the political market.

In the gathering of his ministers, organized immediately after the issuance of court order, PM Oli is reported to have expressed his dissatisfaction with the order. But he is also reported to have said that there is no option other than to abide by the order. He has accused the order to be more of a political rather than a constitutional nature. Expressing his dissatisfaction, he is reported to have said that the court order has “infringed his right to appoint 25 ministers”.

He is also reported to have queried, “How can elections be held with 5 members?” He has taken this to mean that no elections can be held or House is going to be reinstated. However, there is also a contrary view: “With the stay order, the Court has accepted Oli to be a caretaker prime minister and, the implied meaning here is that the Court has accepted the House dissolution and holding of next elections.

Some influencing figures within Oli camp are viewing court order to be “unexpected”, “designed to give trouble” and “further complicate political equation” and "exert negative impact". A constitutional lawyer, giving an interview to the BBC radio, has termed the order as “bold and clear”. 

There is also an opinion going around saying the order “is giving lots of tensions to the PM and he might tender resignation”. Contrary to this view there are also opinions circulating in social media that “PM Oli is never meant for resignation” and there is now a greater possibility of imposition of “emergency rule” and some even go to the extent of predicting emergency rule “by the first week of July”. Recent calling of the meetings of heads of security agencies by the President including writing of letters to the heads of some countries for vaccine support to Nepal could be an indication of possible direct rule by the President in the near future.

It should also be noted that as the court order has come exactly a day after Comrade Pushpa Kamal Dahal "Prachanda" making comments that “20 ministers will be relieved of their positions and the court will reinstate the parliament”, the supporters are cautioning their camp to make “extreme diligence” with the order.

Probably, the oddest opinion is being tweeted by UML leader Mr Yogesh Bhattarai, “The court order has reiterated the indispensability of the unity of CPN-UML.” He requested his fellow leaders to welcome the order. There is no shortage of insane ideas.

The opposition camp has welcomed the order saying it to have brought “Oli on track” and “put a brake” on PM Oli behaving indiscriminately. It has also made him aware of “his limitations” and “the power of the Constitution”. They have taken the order positively. The opposition is ready to prevent any untoward incidents.

Meanwhile, the alliance of five political forces in opposition has issued a joint statement coinciding with the issue of the stay order. Reading the statement gives more an impression of correcting their earlier joint statement. Earlier statement was in controversy with the use of phrase like “Nepali people need to be aware of external forces interfering directly or indirectly with the internal matters of Nepal.”

Published on 23 June 2021