Ruling parties fault the UML for delay in chief justice recommendationLawyers launch protest demanding speedy filling of vacant judicial positions.
Tika R Pradhan
Lawyers have started protests from Sunday demanding that the government appoint a new chief justice without further delay.
The Nepal Bar Association, the umbrella organisation of lawyers in the country, announced a week-long protest with eight demands including the filling of vacant judge positions and appointment of the chief justice.
The ongoing tussle between the ruling coalition and the main opposition CPN-UML has delayed the passage of a bill related to the Constitutional Council and the formation of the parliamentary hearing committee.
Leaders of the ruling coalition have accused the UML of backtracking on an agreement the party made with them at the UML chief KP Oli’s residence at Balkot last week.
“UML backtracked from the Balkot agreement, so everything got delayed,” said Hitraj Pande, chief whip of CPN (Maoist Centre). “They obstructed not only the bill on the Constitutional Council, but also the one related to transitional justice.”
On April 24, the main opposition agreed to endorse the bill related to transitional justice through a special committee and the bill on the Constitutional Council Act through a plenum of the House of Representatives.
However, after the UML registered an amendment to the bill on the Constitutional Council Act to enable only three members of the Council to make nominations for constitutional appointments, the ruling parties were irked and declared the agreement void.
“How can we accept a provision that weakens the role of the executive head in constitutional appointments,” asked Pande. “Therefore, both the bills—one related to transitional justice and the other related to the Constitutional Council—were already sent to parliamentary committees.”
Asked why the parliamentary hearing committee has not been formed yet, Pande said there would be no need for a hearing committee until the Constitutional Council bill is endorsed.
With the UML going back on its word, the ruling coalition, in a tit-for-tat move, has refused to allow the UML to appoint four lawmakers on the hearing committee.
“Since UML’s betrayal has already delayed everything, now we will endorse the bills through a majority,” said Pande.
Nepali Congress lawmakers also blamed the UML’s ‘betrayal’ for the delay in constitutional appointments, among other things.
“The essential constitutional appointments have been affected due to the UML’s position,” said lawmaker Jeevan Pariyar, a joint general secretary of the Congress. “Now it will take some time for the bill to pass parliament since it has to be endorsed by the thematic committee first.”
The Nepal Bar Association has also demanded speedy formation of the parliamentary hearing committee, summoning of a meeting of the Constitutional Council, and introduction of a fully automated system at the Supreme Court for assigning cases to justices, among others.
But UML leaders said they consulted legal experts and were told that the need of the hour is a hearing committee and not an amendment to the Constitutional Council Act.
“We were pressing for the formation of the hearing committee as legal experts told us that the existing Constitutional Council Act does not prevent the appointment of a new chief justice,” said Subas Nembang, deputy leader of UML. “But now that the parliament has been prorogued, we will have to wait until the next session for things to move ahead.”