Impeachment motion annulment fans suspicionsRuling coalition partners suspect that the Parliament Secretariat acted at the CPN-UML’s behest.
In a surprise move, the Parliament Secretariat on Wednesday annulled the impeachment motion brought in the previous parliament against Chief Justice Cholendra Shumsher Rana, arguing the motion had become ineffective with the election of a new parliament.
The general secretary of the Parliament Secretariat, Bharat Raj Gautam, invalidated the motion via a letter addressed to top state offices, including the Prime Minister’s Office.
On February 13, as many as 98 lawmakers had registered the motion against Rana, stepping on Article 101 (2) of the constitution. The registration of the impeachment motion automatically resulted in Rana’s suspension.
Later, on September 17, the impeachment recommendation committee of the House of Representatives that was studying the veracity of the motion submitted its report to Speaker Agni Prasad Sapkota. The Speaker then ordered the tabling of the recommendations, but the failure to do so in the House left the impeachment motion in limbo and Rana’s fate undecided.
Of the 11 committee members, five, including those from the CPN-UML and the Loktantrik Samajbadi Party, had registered their dissent against the committee’s decision. Speaker Sapkota had instructed Gautam to table the recommendations in the post-November 20 parliament.
Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba learnt about the letter only after the PMO got it from the Parliament Secretariat, according to Bhanu Deuba, the prime minister’s personal assistant.
The Parliament Secretariat’s decision apparently came as a surprise to the prime minister and his Cabinet members. Deuba on Wednesday consulted Home Minister Bal Krishna Khand, Minister for Law and Parliamentary Affairs Gyanendra Bahadur Karki, Attorney General Khamba Bahadur Khati, and former law minister Govinda Bandi, among others, after the Secretariat’s decision, which they claimed was made without consulting the political parties and government agencies.
Ruling parties including the Nepali Congress and the CPN (Maoist Centre) expressed their reservations against the Parliament Secretariat’s decision, but the CPN-UML maintained its silence.
Some Congress leaders suspected that Gautam, the general secretary of the Parliament Secretariat, could not have acted alone and had “strong political backing”. They were hinting at the UML, which has all along opposed the impeachment motion.
“Either Gautam got instructions from Ganesh Timilsina, the chairman of National Assembly, or some senior UML leaders,” a source said. “Otherwise, a government employee like Gautam would not dare annul the motion and give Rana a clean chit.”
Bhanu Deuba said the Parliament Secretariat did not inform the prime minister about Rana’s application to the Parliament Secretariat that was filed on Tuesday.
Speaking to the Post, a source close to Rana claimed that the motion was annulled based on ‘broad political consensus’. Otherwise, “how could a government employee dare to make such a decision just four days before Rana’s retirement?” Rana is due to retire next Tuesday.
“If Gautam had that authority, he would have given Rana a clean chit on September 18, after the impeachment recommendation committee submitted a divided verdict to the parliamentary committee,” the source said.
But Law Minister Karki expressed his lack of knowledge of Gautam’s letter.
“What I know is that the letter was sent in bad faith,” said Karki. “Why would the Parliament Secretariat give Rana a clean chit now?”
A former law secretary also claimed that Gautam must not have acted alone while making such a big decision and suspected political backing.
Nepali Congress leader and former whip in the lower house, Min Bishwakarma, termed Gautam’s letter “illegal, ill-intended, irrational and against the principle of natural justice”.
While hinting that Gautam might have UML’s backing, Bishwakarma said, “The secret behind the letter will come out in due course.”
Some Maoist Center leaders also expressed their surprise.
“We don’t know on whose backing Gautam gave a clean chit to Rana, but this is clearly an unconstitutional move,” said Dev Gurung, general secretary of the CPN (Maoist Center). “A government employee has no right to give a clean chit to the suspended chief justice with the impeachment motion still undecided.”