On 13 July, NC leader Deuba took the oath of office from President Bidhya Devi Bhandari, beginning his fifth term as Nepal’s prime minister.
Following the verdict of the Supreme Court’s Constitutional Bench, Deuba marched towards Singhdurbar, replacing the three-and-a-half-year-old CPN-UML government led by K.P. Sharma Oli.
Deuba is becoming the prime minister of a reinstated house for the second time in his life. In his first term, Deuba was elected prime minister by the reinstated House of Representatives in 1996.
After the restoration of the House in 1996, Nepal experienced five years of political horse trading, resulting in the demise of four governments in a short period of time.
In its ruling in favor of the reinstatement of the House of Representatives on July 12, the Supreme Court also directed that Deuba be appointed Prime Minister by 5 p.m. the following day. In the 1996 verdict, this was not the case.
Deuba has been sworn in as Prime Minister, and he has 30 days to prove his majority. If he fails to secure a majority, the house will be dissolved and new elections will be held within six months.
The writ petition filed by the 146-lawmaker strong opposition alliance was among the writ petitions that had been filed with the Supreme Court demanding the reinstatement of the lower house as well as the appointment of Nepali Congress President Deuba as Prime Minister for staking a claim to the post under Article 76 (5) of the Constitution.
On July 12, a five-member constitutional bench led by Chief Justice Cholendra Shumsher Rana issued a ruling stating that President Bidya Devi Bhandari’s decision to dissolve the House on Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli’s recommendation was unconstitutional.
The Supreme Court has reinstated the House of Representatives and issued a writ of mandamus ordering the appointment of Nepali Congress (NC) President Deuba as Prime Minister within two days. The Supreme Court has also ordered that the House of Representatives meet on July 18.
Maoist Centre leaders have also joined the government, in addition to PM Deuba. However, the Samajbadi Janata Party has stated that it will only join the government after a party meeting.
The Supreme Court, as many opposition leaders expected, issued an order to reinstate the House, ruling that its dissolution was unconstitutional.
Political pundits, on the other hand, did not expect Mandamus to appoint Deuba as Prime Minister in two days. They describe the decision as political in nature.
Whatever one thinks of it, the Supreme Court’s Constitutional Bench, which was formed to hear writs against the dissolution of the House of Representatives, has legitimized the opposition’s claim to lead the government.
Despite the fact that the court’s decision is bitter and has political ramifications, Prime Minister Oli has accepted it with reservations.
Although the Supreme Court has upheld several of Prime Minister Oli’s decisions, few expected the court to accept all of Deuba’s pleas.
By nullifying the Citizenship Amendment Ordinance, declaring cabinet expansion unconstitutional, and prohibiting the export of bolts and concrete to India, the Supreme Court provided ample indications of where it was headed.
PM K.P. Sharma Oli has tried to avoid controversy by quietly accepting the court’s decision. This decision, however, is likely to push PM Oli to the front lines in the coming days. This will also compel politicians to appoint more henchmen to the judiciary in order to politicize the judiciary.
Following the verdict, Sher Bahadur Tamang, secretary of the CPN-UML party office, stated that his party has reservations about the verdict, despite accepting it.
Similarly, leader Subash Chandra Nembang stated that they will respect the court’s decision. “Although the Supreme Court’s decision was unexpected, the party will respect the judiciary and welcome the decision,” said party leader Sher Bahadur Tamang.
Cadre In the Street
Prime Minister Oli’s cadres, on the other hand, have stated that their party will follow a specific legal and political path. Oli’s supporters in the resurrected house have the right to criticize the justice system in any way they see fit.
Although the leaders have not said anything, the cadres are demanding that an impeachment motion be filed against certain judges. If this idea is pursued, it will almost certainly result in major constitutional upheavals.
Nepal’s court has seen several upheavals since 2006. Chief Justice Gopal Prasad Parajuli was deposed unceremoniously three years ago by a letter from the secretary of the Judicial Council. Similarly, acting Chief Justice Dipak Raj Joshi was removed after a vote by the hearing committee was cast against him. Joshi even refused to participate as a senior judge on the bench.
If the recent reaction of National Youth Force cadres gathered in Maitighar Mandala, chanting slogans against the recently passed verdict that threatens Oli’s continued rule, is any indication, the Supreme Court and judges will face new political ire.
“We will not accept all of the Supreme Court’s orders, beware!” the demonstrators chanted. Mahesh Basnet, Oli’s confidant and youth wing leader, was also present at the protests.
Basnet claimed that the court’s decision was unjust because it is not the judiciary’s prerogative to appoint the Prime Minister, and thus the order is unconstitutional. The Supreme Court’s decision has been met with mixed reactions from all segments of society.
This is the second time the Apex Court has ruled in favor of House reinstatement during PM Oli’s tenure.
There has been a mixed reaction to the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the decisions. The verdict was hailed as historic by petitioners. Defenders, on the other hand, called the decision a blunder.
“With its decision, the Supreme Court has single-handedly saved the constitution and resurrected the rule of law. It has restored people’s trust in an independent judiciary. We, the opposition alliance, will hold a meeting later and issue a more comprehensive statement then,” said Sher Bahadur Deuba, President of the Nepali Congress.
“The Supreme Court decision is a significant historical event in and of itself. This is a victory for the country and the people, not just the opposition alliance. “With this verdict, the Supreme Court has elevated the prestige of the nation and the constitution to new heights,” said Pushpa Kamal Dahal, Chair of the CPN (Maoist Centre).
“This verdict has accomplished four important tasks: it has clarified several confusing elements of the Constitution; it has limited possible authoritarian intentions of Prime Minister(s) and stated that all state bodies should remain within their limits; it has revived the Constitution and Parliament; and, it has safeguarded the Constitution and Parliament once more, which has enhanced the roles and prestige of the institutions.
Yogesh Bhattarai and Ram Kumari Jhankri, two rebel MPs, also sided with Nepal. “I respect and welcome the Constitutional Court’s decision to restore the House of Representatives. I also urge all UML leaders and cadres to maintain peace and patience in order to save the party’s unity,” Bhattarai said.
“With this decision, the judiciary has added stars to its illustrious resume. “I thank the judiciary, members of the constitutional bench, advocates, political leaders, the media, and civil society for speaking out against the unconstitutional step,” Jhankri said.
However, the verdict was interpreted differently by Oli supporters. “On a global scale, the Supreme Court’s decision has raised a huge question in terms of justice imparted. Despite this, we will accept the court’s decision,” said Subas Nembang, former chair of the CPN-UML Constituent Assembly.
“People should understand that today’s decision has sparked yet another round of political unrest in the country. Those involved in this action will have to stand in the court of history and face trial,” said CPN-UML leader Ishwar Pokhrel.
“The decision of the court has steered Nepal’s democratic system in the wrong direction. It has also harmed the balance between the three pillars of the separation of powers theory – the legislative, executive, and judicial branches. The Supreme Court has crossed its red lines and entered the President’s domain when it comes to appointing Prime Ministers, further jeopardizing the multi-party system,” said Pradeep Kumar Gyawali, Spokesperson for the CPN-UML.
“I am paraphrasing late senior political leader Rajeshwar Devkota when I say that an ox has delivered a calf in the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court’s political decision to reinstate the House will face complications during implementation, increasing the risk of the country becoming embroiled in instability,” said Kamal Thapa, Chair of the Rastriya Prajatantra Party.
Despite being deposed, CPN-UML leader K.P. Sharma Oli remains in a politically powerful position to steer the course of politics.
Despite taking the oath of office and entering the Singh Durbar, Prime Minister Deuba will find it difficult to save his government because it will still be at the mercy of CPN-UML leader Oli.