Sunday, 11 April, 2021

Respect the Verdict

In its historic verdict, the Supreme Court (SC) has reinstated the House of Representatives (HoR) on Tuesday, bringing the derailed constitutional course back on track. The SC has termed the HoR dissolution unconstitutional and invalidated it by the writ of certiorari. President Bidya Devi Bhandari had dissolved the Lower House on the recommendation of Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli on December 20 last year and announced the dates for mid-term polls. Prime Minister Oli’s decision to disband the HoR was challenged in the court with over a dozen writs seeking its reversal. The SC’s constitutional bench, led by Chief Justice Cholendra Shumsher Rana, conducted two-month long hearing and handed the much-awaited decision in favour of plaintiffs. The SC has also ordered to summon the HoR meeting within 13 days of its verdict. The bench comprising Justices Bishwambhar Prasad Shrestha, Anil Kumar Sinha, Sapana Pradhan Malla and Tej Bahadur KC passed their decision unanimously, leaving no legal dispute over the issue.

The new constitution adopted in 2015 had ushered Nepal in federal republican set-up but its real test started with the new government formed under the Nepal Communist Party (NCP) following the three-tier elections in 2017. But the Oli-led government moved to dissolve the House three years before its expiry, putting question on the sustainability of new charter and the system it has envisaged. Oli had insisted that he invoked his special right to dissolve the HoR after his government was not allowed to perform smoothly owing to non-cooperation from within the ruling party. But the court has contradicted his arguments one by one, setting precedents to deal with similar constitutional and political questions in the future.

Its 15-page summarised verdict is landmark in the sense that it has clarified several written or implied provisions of the constitution. It has interpreted the form of governance, right of prime minister and its own jurisdiction. It has said that Nepal has adopted reformed and distinct parliamentary system based on its own practice. It does not reflect the traits of traditional parliamentary order if seen from the country’s election process and method of forming the HoR and Upper House, according to the verdict. Bearing in mind the abuse of PM’s right to dissolve the House in the past, the drafters of the constitution have put a series of conditions for HoR dissolution, the SC said.  

The SC has also dismissed PM Oli’s claim that HoR dissolution is a political issue and the SC can’t interfere in the executive’s territory. The SC has made it clear that it is its duty to hear the cases requiring the constitutional interpretations. In its sweeping judgment, the SC has laid it on the line: If a PM commands majority in the parliament and has been appointed as per Article 76(1), s/he does not have right to dissolve the House. It also denied the claim that the Prime Minister had residual rights according to Article 85. The HoR dissolution should only be compulsive or a last resort when all constitutional options of government formation come to naught. With the SC’s instruction to summon the session of parliament, the HoR is now not only in the limelight but it has also the onus to sort out the current impasse triggered by the HoR dissolution. As the apex court has demonstrated its guts and fulfilled the constitutional responsibility, the political parties represented in the parliament should also prove their integrity and ability by not letting any anomalies to emerge and stifle the democratic process essential for course correction of crisis-ridden politics. At the same time, PM Oli is also expected to take a rational step to steer the nation towards the stable path.