Saturday, 24 July, 2021

Hearing On HoR Dissolution

The constitutional bench of the Supreme Court (SC) has been hearing the dissolution of the House of Representatives (HoR) case for more than a week now. If the hearing goes as smooth as it has been now, the bench will deliver its verdict by the end of next week. The five-member constitutional bench, being headed by the Chief Justice, has fast-tracked the hearing on the most tortuous issue of the House dissolution by allowing 15 hours each to the lawyers pleading on behalf of the writ petitioners and the defendants. The allotment of fixed hours for pleading the case will enable the court to deliver the adjudication within its stipulated time.

If we look into the ongoing hearing, we find that the lawyers pleading on behalf of the defendant Prime Minister have raised the pertinent issue: Our constitution requires mandatory backing from parties to form any government. They raised this issue after the lawyers from the writ petitioners had centred their pleading around Article 76 (5), which, according to them, does not require support from the party and regards every lawmaker as an independent member who can throw their weight behind any HoR member to be appointed next prime minister with a majority of HoR support. This argument brings to our notice the move of some rebel UML lawmakers, who had sided with the Nepali Congress president, opted to put their signatures on a writ petition asking the SC to issue its mandamus order to appoint the main opposition leader next prime minister by reinstating the dissolved House.

In their defense, the Prime Minister's lawyers have contended that the SC could not issue its mandamus against the President, who has constitutional rights of exercising her discretionary power for rejecting or accepting applications seeking to appoint a HoR member new prime minister. If the President does not find any valid ground for making such an appointment, she can reject such an application. The PM's lawyers also justified that the PM's move to dissolve the HoR for the second time after the reinstatement of the same following its termination on December 20, 2020, could not produce a new government as opposition parties lacked sufficient number to prove majority for their PM candidate.

The ongoing court hearings have produced some interesting episodes. The Chief Justice along with other justices of the bench has grilled and asked probing questions to the lawyers representing both sides. Of all bench members, the Chief Justice had made his queries regarding Article 76 and its sub-clauses that define the process of electing a PM in the HoR and is at the heart of the current court proceedings. His inquisitive queries have left many to rethink the position the contending lawyers have stuck.

Following the completion of the judicial hearing in a few days, the bench is expected to deliver its significant verdict that would protect the sanctity and supremacy of our constitution. Whatever will be the outcome of the hearing, the writ petitioners, the defendants, the political parties and leaders have no option but to accept and respect the verdict. The apex court's ruling on the HoR dissolution may help bring stability to the nation's politics, at least to the period the nation goes for its periodic general elections. It may also shape the future course of Nepal's polity and the fate of political parties.