With House term nearing end, parties are trying to rush Rana impeachmentUML and ruling coalition lawmakers say time is too short for probing and putting the motion to vote.
Even six months after three ruling parties registered a motion to impeach Chief Justice Cholendra Shumsher Rana, the impeachment proposal continues to be in a state of limbo in Parliament.
On Thursday, just as the government announced polls for November 20 to elect a new Parliament, some ruling party leaders said the House of Representatives will now discuss the motion.
As many as 98 lawmakers from the Nepali Congress, the CPN (Maoist Centre) and the CPN (Unified Socialist) on February 13 had registered the impeachment motion against Rana, leading to his automatic suspension.
“The impeachment motion will move forward from the next meeting of the lower house, or the subsequent meeting,” Min Bishwakarma, the Nepali Congress whip, told the Post. “The impeachment motion is the business of the current House. It needs to be discussed and finalised without further delay.”
An impeachment recommendation committee was formed on March 6 after the motion was registered but it has yet to discuss the matter.
Talking to the Post, Pushpa Bhusal, the recently elected deputy Speaker, said since the impeachment motion is the business of the incumbent House, it needs to be discussed and finalised by the same House.
“The motion will be first discussed in the House before it is sent to the impeachment recommendation committee,” said Bhusal.
But whether the impeachment motion can be finalized by the House remains a concern.
Parties have tentatively agreed on keeping the House alive until a day before nominations for the November 20 elections are filed.
Chief Election Commissioner Dinesh Thapaliya said on Thursday that candidacy registration will begin immediately after Dashain (by mid-October). This will mean the House will have a little over two months to discuss the impeachment motion, then send it to the impeachment recommendation committee to investigate the charges—there are 29 allegations altogether—and submit its report to the House which then has to vote on the recommendation.
As per Rule 161 (2) of the Regulation of House of Representatives, the Speaker can present the motion for deliberations in the House seven days from the date of its registration. Had the process moved smoothly, the motion could have been tabled in the House on February 20. However, neither the Speaker nor the ruling parties showed interest to forward it.
Rule 163 of the regulation allows a maximum of three months for the recommendation committee to investigate the charges. It can get one week more if it wants to conduct further investigation.
“The Parliament would have already voted on the motion by now, following all due process, if the ruling parties and the Speaker really wanted,” Dinesh Tripathi, chairperson of the Constitutional Lawyers’ Forum, told the Post. “The ruling parties have misused the constitutional provision of impeachment by delaying action on the motion.”
Article 101 (2) of the constitution says one fourth of the members of Parliament can register an impeachment motion against any official holding a constitutional position on the ground of failing to perform duty effectively or working against the constitution or seriously violating their code of conduct.
The 11-member recommendation committee includes Bishnu Poudel, Lalbabu Pandit, Shiva Maya Tumbahangphe and Krishna Bhakta Pokharel from the CPN-UML; Min Bishwarkarma and Ram Bahadur Bista from the Nepali Congress; Yashoda Subedi and Rekha Sharma from the Maoist Centre; Ekbal Miya from the Loktantrik Samajbadi Party; Kalyani Kumari Khadka from the CPN (Unified Socialist); and Pramod Sah from the Janata Samajbadi Party.
UML lawmakers say by planning to forward the impeachment motion for discussions after the election announcement, the ruling parties are trying to show they at least tried to finalise the motion.
“We have been saying that the motion was registered with the sole intention of suspending Rana. The ruling parties have proved this by delaying in tabling the motion in the House,” Pokharel, a UML lawmaker in the recommendation committee who also is a senior advocate, told the Post. “I believe the motion can still be put to vote within the remaining time of the House. However, I don’t think the ruling parties actually want that.”
The UML lawmakers, however, say as all lawmakers will be in election mood now onwards, the recommendation committee is unlikely to carry out its task smoothly in a short time. “They should have forwarded the motion before announcing the election date,” said Pokharel.
Unless there is UML support, the motion, however, is set to fail. To impeach Rana, the motion needs to be endorsed by a two-thirds majority (181 votes) of the current 271-strong House.
The ruling coalition has 153 votes. Similarly, Loktantrik Samajbadi Party with 13 lawmakers had extended its support to Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba during the vote of confidence. The coalition will have 164 votes if Loktantrik Samajbadi stands in favour of the motion. However, 17 more votes will be required for the endorsement of the motion.
The main opposition has 98 lawmakers in the House.
Even ruling party lawmakers agree that there is a time constraint in probing the changes against Rana and putting the motion to vote.
“I think the House will function until before Dashain (third week of October). We don’t have enough time,” said Bishwakarma. “However, if there is consensus among all the parties we can complete the probe and put the motion to vote before the House ends.”