As soon as the constitutional Bench of Nepal’s Supreme Court reinstated the House of Representatives, political leaders are working to develop a new strategy to face the coming session of the House of Representatives.
Following the verdict of the Supreme Court to reinstate the House of Representatives, Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli announced that he will face the floor of the house and test his majority.
With the verdict of the Apex Court, Prachanda-Nepal led faction of Nepal Communist Party summoned the parliamentary party meeting to replace the leader of the parliamentary party.
These two decisions of the ruling party showed that they are now in the final stage of the formal split. It is yet to know who holds the majority. As both the factions of the ruling party are yet to formally split, the question now is who will lead the new government and how they will have a magic number for the majority in 275 chamber House of Representatives.
1996 And 2021
In parliamentary history, this is the second time Apex Court has ordered the reinstatement of the House of Representatives. Although the constitution and modality are different, the political repercussion of the reinstatement of the House of Representatives will likely remain the same.
As the verdict delivered by the Supreme Court under the leadership of chief justice late Bishownath Upadhyaya in 1996 ushered the era of uncertainty and opportunistic political culture, how the current court verdict that reinstated the House of Representatives will change the political course remains to be seen.
Delivering the verdict, the court turned Oli’s move to dissolve the House is unconstitutional. The spokesperson of the Supreme Court Bhadrakali Pokhrel said that in line with the verdict, the government will have to summon a session of the House within 13 days.
Five judges led by Chief Justice Cholendra Sumsher Rana, including Anil Kumar Sinha, Sapana Malla Pradhan, Tej Bahadur KC and Bishwombher Man Shrestha, took the decision.
In its unanimous verdict 5-0, the constitutional bench of the Supreme Court of Nepal deemed Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli's move to dissolve the House an unconstitutional move, thereby overturning the decision.
Along with the reinstatement of the House of Representatives, the Supreme Court also directed the prime minister and the President to summon the session of the House of Representatives within 13 days of the verdict.
Chief Justice Cholendra SJB Rana read out the SC verdict to restore the HoR which was dissolved two years prior to its full five-year term. President Bidya Devi Bhandari had dissolved the HoR on December 20, 2020, as per the recommendation of Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli.
Given the structure of the House of Representatives, it will be not difficult to forecast the possible scenario with the prime minister blackmailed by the members of parliament.
In a verdict delivered in 1996 by a bench led by chief justice late Bishwonath Upadhyaya against the dissolution by CPN-UML-led by prime minister late Man Mohan Adhikari, the Supreme Court had said that the minority government does not have the right to dissolve the House of Representatives.
The current bench of the Constitutional Court headed by chief justice Cholendra Sumsher Rana, however, ordered that the prime minister who holds the majority in the House of Representatives cannot call fresh elections and recommend the dissolution of the house of representatives.
However, the verdict of 1996 to reinstate the House of Representatives not only destroyed the parliamentary form of government but finally paved the way for the destruction of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Nepal in 1990.
Political Fall Out
With the split of the ruling Party NCP, no single party will have the magic number of 138 to form a single-party government. In the scenario, there will be a hung parliament with Madhav-Prachanda-led NCP or Oli-led NCP, the two single largest parties then.
After the split, the status of the Nepali Congress will change from the second largest to the third-largest party in the House of Representatives.
A rift had occurred in the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) after the dissolution of the HoR as a majority faction of the NCP led by Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal 'Prachanda' and Madhav Kumar Nepal had been protesting against the HoR dissolution by taking to the street. Except for the NCP faction led by PM Oli himself, no other political party represented in the HoR supported the HoR dissolution.
The Constitutional bench comprising five members deemed the decision of the government void. With this decision, the House of Representatives has now been reinstated. In line with the verdict, the government will have to summon a session of the House within 13 days.
As many as 13 writ petitions were filed at the Apex Court against Oli-government's move, calling it unconstitutional. The court had earlier summoned all the writ petitioners for the final verdict.
Prepared in a hush and rush without debates and concept for the forms of government and backing of a group of lawyers and civil society leaders, political leaders pronounced constitution with the parliamentary system with the accountable prime minister.
However, they are now demanding from the apex court to turn the present system into a system of fixed tenure for the House of Representatives and uncertain tenure for the prime minister.
As he is in power, prime minister K.P. Sharma Oli, who recommended the dissolution, argues that it is his right as per the provision of the constitution which gives the prime minister power to dissolve the house and go for a fresh poll.
Given Nepal’s political situation, one cannot say for sure what the views of PM Oli would be in case he is out of the government. Backed by his lawyers and intellectuals, PM Oli is defending his decision as constitutional.
However, the Nepal-Prachanda faction, Nepali Congress and other political leaders, civil society members and constitutional lawyers are against PM Oli’s recommendations. They were pleading for the restoration of the House of Representatives on the political ground.
PM Oli’s constitutional insistence vs Nepal-Prachanda, Nepali Congress and other fringe parties’ demand for political consideration to restore the House of Representatives had put pressure on the court. Even four former chief justices of the Supreme Court, who were summoned in the court for defamation, were demanding the restoration of the House of Representatives.
During the entire day of the hearing, the lawyers from both sides pleaded the case of their own clients. However, no one has tried to define the constitution. It creates more confusion to the common people and foreigners.
“This is a very wrong precedent to dissolve the elected House of Representatives to avoid internal party politics. This is politically very incorrect. As per the provision of the constitution, the prime minister has the authority to dissolve the house and seek fresh polls,” pleaded senior advocate and renowned constitutional lawyer Badri Bahadur Karki. He argued that the PM’s decision was politically fatal.
At a time when all political leaders are celebrating the revival of the house of representatives, Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli celebrated his 70th birthday in the presence of his family members and close relatives at his Baluwatar-based official residence.
He celebrated the occasion at PM's residence in the presence of his father Mohan Prasad Oli, and spouse Radhika Shakya, along with a few others in his close circle. From his 70th birthday party, PM Oli issued a statement declaring that he will face the house.
PM Oli’s stand has indicated that there is little chance for the unification of the two factions again. In this scenario, Nepal will enter into coalition politics. With two communist parties holding a bigger chunk of members in a 273-member house, Nepali Congress, which is in the middle, will be the kingmaker.
PM Oli might still go for the dissolution following the voting in the house. PM Oli will only be likely to tender his resignation after facing the floor of the house.
Following the recommendation of dissolution of House of Representatives and now the verdict of Supreme Court to reinstate the House, Nepal’s political journey is headed towards an uncertain course.