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Sitting chief justice may lead nepal government

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  • 1. Sharnoffs Global Views Unique original content by internationals for Americans about politics, economics, technology, the environment and other relevant issuesSITTING CHIEF JUSTICE MAY LEAD NEPALGOVERNMENTKeshav Prasad Bhattarai, Author and ColumnistFebruary 15, 2013Khil Raj Regmi, the sitting Chief Justice of Nepal, may lead a new government toconduct the second election of the Constituent Assembly (CA). On Thursdayevening, leaders of the major political parties have publicly admitted that inprinciple, they have reached a consensus.The ruling United Communist Party of Nepal (UCPN) Maoist initially advocated thisproposal on the first week of this month. Since then Nepali politics have stirredpeople and entered into a fiery new phase. Citizens took it as a benign politicalgesture to end the deadlock after the CA was dissolved last May.Indeed, it was a most surprising proposal from a radical communist party – thatuntil several days ago was making grand claims to run the government for anotherten years. The party has yet to renounce violence for its political ends and that has
  • 2. continuously been deriding the very idea of independence of judiciary. It would bea positive development if such a party insisted on “an impartial government toconduct free and fair elections” of the CA. However, some commentators are notconvinced on the sincerity of the ruling coalition led by Prime Minister BaburamBhattarai.This has led opposition parties in a state of considerable confusion. They could notreject it outright because ample evidence has demonstrated that since the dawn ofdemocracy in 1950 and under various rule and misrule ever since, Nepal’s judiciaryhas remained independent and stood by the justice and dignity of the people. Evenbefore 1950, Nepali rulers considered justice as the soul of the state andgovernance.For eight months when the three major parties including the United CommunistParty (Maoist), the Nepali Congress and Nepal Communist Party (UML) could notreach an agreement on forming a new government, the Chief Justice could becomea consensus candidate to head the government to conduct free and fair elections.However, stronger dissension exists among a wider section of Nepali society. Theyhave stressed that after the insistence of Maoist leaders that the Chief Justicewill lead both the executive and judiciary; it could create political complicationsand the dignity of the justice.Commoners, legal experts and influential junior leaders from opposition partieshave considered it a grave conspiracy against democracy. Moreover, they haveinterpreted it as a grand design of the Maoists to control both the government andjudiciary from behind and tear down the principles of separation of powers thatstands against a committed judiciary.They have reasons to distrust the new Maoist proposal. Just a few days ago, thecountry was badly shaken when people confronted with new evidence of Maoistbrutality and inhuman killing of a journalist in a remote western district of Dailekh.One of the murderers had openly admitted that during the so-called peoples’ war, ajournalist named Dekendra Thapa was buried alive.Prime Minister Bhattarai ordered the junior officials to close the files againstMaoist cadres that were involved in the murder of Thapa. Immediately thereafter,the Supreme Court had summoned the Prime Minister on the charge of contemptof court. Therefore, people have seen how Maoist and even the Prime Minister
  • 3. provide protection for Maoist leaders convicted on murder, theft and arsoncharges.Four years ago, Nepal had elected a CA to write a new constitution. It was electedfor two years and had raised exhilarated enthusiasm among many citizens.However, when it could not deliver a constitution even after four years, the CA wasdissolved under popular pressure against its senseless political gimmickry of the600 plus CA members. They repeatedly extended its term. When at last theSupreme Court delivered its verdict over the unconstitutionality of its extendedterms, the house was unceremoniously dissolved. Following the dissolution of theCA, the President had declared a caretaker government.Before the dissolution of the CA, Bhattarai’s government had declared the electionof a new CA on November 22, 2012. However, the constitution has maintained noprovision for when the CA fails to issue a constitution in a given time. Similarly,after the dissolution of the CA, no constitutional authority existed to change thePrime Minister and to amend the existing constitution.Therefore, what Nepal is facing today is not just a grave political crisis but afrightening constitutional crisis. The crisis cannot be resolved until theconstitution is violated and once it is violated, it will open floodgates ofconstitutional infringement. A legitimacy crisis will be among the most critical ofconcerns and events that follow may end in another round of chaos and anarchy.After the monarchy was abolished in May 2008, the head of state in Nepal hasbeen a President. The Prime Minister carries out all the executive functions of thecountry. The major political parties are demanding the ouster of the PrimeMinister for several months, but in the absence of a constitutional authority, theyare legally helpless. On this backdrop, they either have to accept the optionsproposed by the UCPN (Maoist) and face the impending dangers underlying it or goto the street against the government – a journey more unsafe and dangerous.(Keshav Prasad Bhattarai writes for Eurasia Review. He is the former President ofNepal Teachers’ Association, Teachers’ Union of Nepal and General Secretary ofSAARC Teachers’ Federation. He worked as a columnist in an English languageweekly from Nepal – The Reporter and has authored three books)