Nepal SC to form Bench on judges' seniority for dissolution hearing

Midway through his tenure, Nepal Prime MInsiter K P Sharma Oli (left) had to yield power to Prachanda. But that did not happen, leading to the current political crisis | Photo: Reuters

The Supreme Court of Nepal on Tuesday agreed to form a Constitutional Bench on the basis of seniority of the judges to hear a bunch of petitions challenging the dissolution of the House of Representatives, after differences among justices led to the postponement of the hearing.

In a meeting with the representatives of the Supreme Court Bar Association, Chief Justice Cholendra Shumsher Rana, who leads the five-member Constitutional Bench, said he would amend the regulation for the functioning of the apex court, The Himalayan Times newspaper reported.

The amendment of the regulation, which has been proposed to be carried out within a week as agreed upon by both sides, would be endorsed by the full court, it said.

"It will ensure the appointment of judges to the bench based on seniority," senior advocate Purna Man Shakya told the media.

With this development, the hearing on the petitions is likely to be adjourned on Tuesday, the report said.

The Supreme Court, which was to decide on Monday whether or not the two Constitutional Bench justices Tej Bahadur KC and Bam Kumar Shrestha should recuse themselves from the House of Representatives (HoR) dissolution case, could not do so due to differences among justices on the roster for the Constitutional Bench.

The two justices said they had no compunction hearing the HoR dissolution case. The other two justices on the Constitutional Bench - Deepak Kumar Karki and Ananda Mohan Bhattarai - did not endorse justices Tej Bahadur KC and Shrestha's views.

The controversy over the recusal led to the postponement of the hearing on Monday. Thirteen justices who are on the roster for the Constitutional Bench dwelt on the recusal issue on Monday.

Lawyers representing the petitioners who have challenged the dissolution of the House had pleaded before the Constitutional Bench on Sunday that justices whose verdict nullified the unification of the CPN-UML and the CPN-Maoist Centre and those who had heard the review petition against the division bench's verdict should recuse themselves from the HoR dissolution case to avoid conflict of interest, The Himalayan Times reported on Monday.

They said that NCP nullification and the HoR dissolution were related. The apex court has listed the House dissolution case for continuous hearing.

As many as 146 members of the dissolved HoR, including Nepali Congress President Sher Bahadur Deuba, who had staked claim to form the new government under Article 76 (5) of the Constitution, have also filed a petition in the Supreme Court seeking reinstatement of the House.

Nepal President Bidya Devi Bhandari dissolved the 275-member House of Representatives on May 22 for the second time in five months and announced snap elections on November 12 and November 19 on the advice of Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli.

She rejected the separate bids of both Prime Minister Oli and the Opposition alliance's claims to form a new government, saying the claims were insufficient.

Earlier on December 20, the president dissolved Parliament and called snap polls on April 30 and May 10. However, two months later, Chief Justice Rana-led Constitutional Bench on February 23 overturned the decision and reinstated the House of Representatives.

Constitutional experts have criticised Oli and Bhandari for their complicity in trampling upon the Constitution.

Nepal plunged into a political crisis on December 20, last year after President Bhandari dissolved the House at the recommendation of Prime Minister Oli, amidst a tussle for power within the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP).

Oli's move to dissolve the House sparked protests from a large section of the NCP led by his rival Pushpa Kamal Dahal 'Prachanda'.

(Only the headline and picture of this report may have been reworked by the Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

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