Petition at Supreme Court demands Agni Sapkota’s arrestThe petition, filed by advocate Dinesh Tripathi, also asks that Sapkota’s nomination for Speaker of the House be dismissed.
Tika R Pradhan
A petition was filed in the Supreme Court on Friday demanding the arrest of House Speaker nominee Agni Sapkota and dismissal of his nomination.
The petitioner, senior advocate Dinesh Tripathi, has appealed to the court to issue an arrest order for Sapkota so that he could be investigated for his alleged involvement in an insurgency-era murder case. Tripathi has also called upon the court to dismiss Sapkota’s nomination as the Speaker of the House of Representatives.
“I have made five demands—not to elect Sapkota as Speaker, halt the ongoing election process, arrest Sapkota and investigate the allegation of murder, take necessary legal action against the authorities for not proceeding with his case, and finally, form a special task force to investigate the issue,” said Tripathi. “The hearing on the petition has been for January 26.”
In his writ petition, Tripathi has listed the government authorities—including the Office of the Prime Minister and Cabinet of Ministers, Secretariat of the House of Representatives, Sapkota, senior-most member of the House Mahantha Thakur, the Home Ministry, police headquarters, the Kavre District Police Office, and Sindhupalchok District Police Office—as defendants.
Sapkota is running unopposed for Speaker of the House of Representatives as the ruling Nepal Communist Party candidate. The opposition, Nepali Congress, has refrained from nominating a candidate of its own.
The election has been scheduled for Sunday— the same day the Supreme Court is set to hear the petition. The meeting of the House of Representatives has been scheduled for
3 pm and Sapkota is expected to be announced as Speaker. It is unclear if the Supreme Court will hear the petition before Sapkota’s election but, according to Tripathi, the apex court can nullify the election if it upholds the petition.
Following the filing of the writ petition, ruling party leaders held a consultation with legal experts, including senior advocate Raman Shrestha, who was the attorney general in the Pushpa Kamal Dahal administration. As government bodies are defendants in the case, the Office of the Attorney General, which is led by Agni Kharel, will be defending Sapkota.
Dahal, who had backed Sapkota for the post of Speaker, has said that Sapkota is the unanimous candidate of all the parties and he has no case pending at any court of law.
Earlier, in 2011, when Sapkota had become a minister in the Jhala Nath Khanal-led government, a Public Interest Litigation was filed at the Supreme Court. However, according to Shrestha, the court had refused to issue a stay order against Sapkota’s appointment on the grounds that he had not yet been convicted in a court of law.
The court had said then that it was up to Sapkota to take a moral decision and step down.
“Given the precedent, I don’t think the Supreme Court will issue a stay order but it’s all up to the justices,” Shrestha told the Post.
Ruling party leaders, especially from the former Maoists, are expected to stand firm by Sapkota. Dahal wishes to establish that all insurgency-era cases be looked into by the transitional justice bodies. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which is mandated to look into insurgency-era cases, recently received office-bearers after Dahal, Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli and Nepali Congress President Sher Bahadur Deuba all agreed on appointments.
Former Maoist leaders believe that the petition will only affect Sapkota’s election as the Speaker if it is part of a design by party co-chair KP Sharma Oli.
“Sushil Pyakurel’s resignation has given a sense that the writ petition could be part of a grand design,” said a Standing Committee member from the Dahal camp on condition of anonymity. “Let’s see what the apex court does on Sunday.”
If anything happens to Sapkota’s nomination, Maoists leaders said that they will have no option but to split the party.
Sapkota is accused in the murder of Arjun Lama of Kavre during the insurgency period. A case against him is pending at the constitutional bench of the Supreme Court, which has scheduled a hearing on the case for February 5.
The petition at the Supreme Court comes days after the ruling party picked Sapkota as its Speaker candidate. Sapkota has already filed his nomination and with the main opposition Nepali Congress deciding not to field any candidate, he is certain to be elected unopposed.
Civil society members, rights defenders and conflict victims have opposed Sapkota as the Speaker, saying the post demands an individual with high moral standing.
The Speaker post has been vacant since early October when Krishna Bahadur Mahara stepped down following allegations of attempted rape.
Sapkota, a Maoist leader since 1995, is Dahal’s choice for Speaker. Oli, however, was in favour of Subash Nembang, two-time chairman of the Constituent Assembly.
But on Sunday, after a month-long negotiation, Oli and Dahal agreed on Sapkota as the Speaker, prompting protests from civil society, rights defenders and conflict victims.
The agreement on Sapkota came a day after the ruling and opposition parties agreed on officials for the two transitional justice bodies. Oli, Dahal and Deuba on Saturday had decided on the chairs and members for the two transitional justice commissions. A recommendation committee headed by former chief justice Om Prakash Mishra had swiftly recommended the names chosen by the leaders, drawing censure against the committee members for acting on behalf of political interests.