New Constitutional Bench formed in Nepal to hear petitions against House dissolution


PTI, Jun 6, 2021, 1:27 PM IST

Kathmandu: A new Constitutional Bench of the Nepal Supreme Court was formed on Sunday to hear a bunch of petitions against the May 22 dissolution of the House of Representatives after differences among justices over its composition delayed the crucial hearing, according to media reports.

The bench was formed by Nepal’s Chief Justice Cholendra Shamsher Rana on the seniority and expertise of the Supreme Court Justices.

The new Constitutional Bench includes justices Dipak Kumar Karki, Anand Mohan Bhattarai, Mira Dhungana, Ishwar Prasad Khatiwada, and the chief justice himself, a report stated.

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 KP Sharma Oli, heading a minority government.

Following the illness of Justice Bishwambhar Prasad Shrestha, his successor justices Bhattarai and Khatiwada were included in the Constitutional Bench.

Earlier, the hearing was affected due to a dispute in the formation of the Constitutional Bench.

Chief Justice Rana had earlier picked justices Dipak Kumar Karki, Aanand Mohan Bhattarai, Tej Bahadur KC, and Bam Kumar Shrestha for the bench to hear about 30 petitions registered against the ”unconstitutional” dissolution, the report said.

As many as 146 members of the dissolved House, including Nepali Congress President Sher Bahadur Deuba, who had staked a 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.

President Bhandari 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.”

A controversy erupted after a lawyer of Deuba raised questions over two justices picked as members of the Constitutional Bench given their previous decision on the case of reviewing the Communist Party of Nepal’s unity and registration.

After the justices under question – Tej Bahadur KC and Bam Kumar Shrestha – decided not to leave the bench, two other justices picked for the Constitutional Bench chose to opt-out of the bench.

This forced Chief Justice Rana to reconstitute the bench to hear the writ petitions filed against the dissolution of Parliament.

Meanwhile, the Opposition alliance issued a joint statement on Saturday condemning the Cabinet reshuffle done by the Oli government.

Oli on Friday reshuffled the Cabinet. The new Cabinet has three Deputy Prime Ministers, 12 cabinet ministers, and two state ministers.

Oli has made a mockery of constitutional and democratic values by reshuffling the Cabinet at a time when his move dissolving the House is sub judice in the Supreme Court, the Opposition alliance said in a statement.

The five-party alliance also said the government’s announcement in the budget that it would allow the export of river materials from the Chure range could lead to desertification of the Tarai, and thus it was an anti-national and anti-people move.

The alliance also condemned the government’s move to allow middlemen and racketeers to supply iodized salt.

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.’

However, two months later, Chief Justice Rana-led Constitutional Bench on February 23 overturned the decision and reinstated the House of Representatives.

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