Court to hear petition against PM tomorrowOpposition lawmakers have started seeking Dahal’s resignation on moral grounds.
A writ petition demanding prosecution of the supreme commander of the disbanded Maoist ‘People’s Liberation Army’, Pushpa Kamal Dahal, who currently is the prime minister, and the chief of the insurgency-era ‘people’s government’, Baburam Bhattarai, who is also a former prime minister, has been registered at the Supreme Court.
The court administration registered the petition on Sunday following a ruling by a single bench of Justice Ananda Mohan Bhattarai on Friday. Narayan Prasad Panthi, registrar of the Supreme Court, had on May 30 refused to register the petition arguing that only the transitional justice mechanisms were authorised to decide on the matter raised by the petitioner.
Panthi's decision, however, was later overturned by Bhattarai’s bench, which said, “The concerns raised in the petition demand a resolution from the court. Therefore, the decision of May 30, 2023 to scrap the petition is revoked.”
Lenin Bista, one of the petitioners, said the hearing on the petition will commence on Tuesday. The preliminary hearing will be conducted by a single bench in a day while further hearing will be held based on its ruling.
The petitioners have claimed that the Maoist leaders had committed war crimes by recruiting minors in the armed conflict. They have demanded an investigation into the matter through a tribunal, as was done in Rwanda and Yugoslavia. “We demand an order to suspend Dahal [from his duties] as prime minister until the investigation does not end,” reads one of the points in the petition.
As many as nine former Maoist child soldiers led by Bista, the founding chair of the Discharged People’s Liberation Army, moved the Supreme Court after no steps were taken to give them justice through the transitional justice process. The Enforced Disappearances Enquiry, Truth and Reconciliation Commission Act and its amendment bill under consideration in the federal parliament do not incorporate their concerns.
“Registration of our petition has given us hope for justice,” Bista told the Post. “We are looking forward to a landmark verdict from the respected Supreme Court.”
During the verification process for army integration conducted by UNMIN in 2007, thousands of Maoist fighters, including Bista, had been disqualified for being children.
Among the 4,008 combatants who did not qualify for integration, 2,973 were identified as minors while the remaining 1,035 were late recruits who had joined the Maoist ‘People’s Liberation Army’ after the first ceasefire of May 26, 2006—six months before the peace deal was signed. The government had provided between Rs500,000 and Rs800,000 each to the combatants who chose voluntary retirement and return home. However, those who were disqualified didn’t get any substantial support, except for a few thousand rupees from the United Nations.
With the registration of the petition, opposition lawmakers have started demanding Dahal’s resignation. Stating that the court had registered a case against Dahal on a serious issue like war crime, Rastriya Prajatantra Party lawmaker Gyan Bahadur Shahi said Dahal should resign on moral grounds. “The prime minister must resign to allow the court to independently examine the case and reach a verdict,” he said in the House of Representatives.
The petition by Bista’s team is the second one against Dahal at the apex court demanding implicating him in the insurgency-era cases of atrocities. A petition by the victims of the insurgency demanding that Dahal be prosecuted based on his statement that he would take the responsibility for 5,000 of the 17,000 deaths from the 1996-2006 insurgency, is sub judice.
On January 15, 2020, while addressing a Maghi festival celebration event in Kathmandu, Dahal had said that as the leader of the Maoist party that led the decade-long insurgency, he would take responsibility for the deaths of 5,000 people while the state should own up to the remaining deaths.