Supreme Court issues show-cause notice over delay in election of deputy speakerConstitutional experts say it is unfortunate that the court had to remind officials to make plans to elect a member of Parliament to the key position.
The Supreme Court on Friday issued a show-cause notice to the government and the speaker’s secretariat over the delay in the election of deputy speaker, a position that has remained vacant for over five months.
Responding to a writ petition filed by advocate Tulsi Simkhada, a single bench of Justice Prakash Dhungana directed the defendants to furnish a written clarification for the depaly within 15-days.
The position has remained vacant since erstwhile Deputy Speaker Shiva Maya Tumbahangphe resigned from the job on January 20 after her party declined to nominate her for Speaker, and chose Agni Sapkota for the post instead.
“The deputy speaker is a member of the Constitutional Council. The position can’t remain vacant for months,” said Simkhada, who moved the court alleging the government and the speaker were reluctant to elect the deputy speaker at the earliest. “This is the reason why the writ petition received priority and a show-cause was issued,” he told the Post.
Tumbahangphe was forced to step down by her party as Article 91 of the constitution says that the Speaker and the Deputy Speaker can’t come from the same party or gender. After erstwhile Speaker Krishna Bahadur Mahara resigned in early October last year following allegations of attempted rape, the ruling Nepal Communist Party couldn’t reclaim the position without giving up the deputy position held by Tumbahangphe, also a member of the party.
According to the constitution, the speaker and deputy speaker should be elected within 15 days after the Lower House convenes. Though it does not specify a deadline for the election of the deputy speaker when the incumbent resigns, legal experts say, delaying the election process for months is against the spirit of the constitution.
The ruling Nepal Communist Party’s support is a must for any candidate to claim the position as no other party has the numbers in Parliament to do so. The party had offered the position to Rashtriya Janamorcha, which has a lone seat in the House. But Janamorcha rejected the offer saying that it won’t have a lawmaker left to raise the party’s voice in Parliament if it’s only lawmaker was to take up the job.
With the merger between the Samajbadi Party and Rastriya Janata Party Nepal, only two parties remain in contention for the position—the Nepali Congress and Janata Samajwadi Party. Leaders from the main opposition Nepali Congress say that it is only natural that an MP from the party get the position.
“However, we won’t demand it,” Prakash Sharan Mahat, deputy general secretary of the party, told the Post. He also accused the ruling party of not adhering to the spirit of the constitution. “It is good that the court has intervened in the matter,” he said.
Constitution experts, meanwhile, said it was unfortunate that political parties and the government did not demonstrate an urgency to fill the position and the court had to remind them of their responsibility.
“I suggest that the House elect the deputy speaker before the court issues any writ,” senior advocate Chandra Kant Gyawali, who specialises in constitutional law, told the Post. “Delaying the election for months is a clear breach of the spirit of the constitution.”
Gyawali also said the position of deputy speaker is not just important for the Lower House of Parliament, but also for the Constitutional Council. “There is a reason why we have a deputy speaker in the Constitutional Council,” he said. The deputy speaker will come from the opposition party and will be female, he said. “She can raise her voice for participation of women in constitutional bodies.”
Gyawali said that while the ruling party was reluctant to elect the deputy speaker, the opposition also has not shown any urgency.
Meanwhile, an aide to Speaker Sapkota said the speaker has drawn the attention of the ruling and opposition parties to conduct the election. However, he hasn’t had success. “The speaker has repeatedly talked to top leadership, and they have told him a decision will be taken soon,” Shreedhar Neupane, press advisor to Sapkota, told the Post.