News Digest: Domestic Politics & Governance (May 27-2 June, 2021)

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Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli addressing a meeting of the CPN-UML Standing Committee held at the PM’s residence in Baluwatar. Photo: Received from the Prime Minister’s Secretariat, RSS

CPN–UML

After a discussion between second-rank leaders of CPN–UML’s two factions, the party’s Standing Committee meeting (of the Oli faction) on June 1 decided to halt the disciplinary actions against 12 leaders and continue the effort to preserve party unity.

House Dissolution and the Supreme Court

The Supreme Court started hearing 19 of the 30 petitions filed against PM Oli’s House dissolution move from May 27, 2021. These are the petitions filed under general procedures, which does not require a Constitutional Bench hearing.

Following severe criticisms regarding the composition of the Constitutional Bench, which was hearing the House dissolution cases, Chief Justice Rana agreed to reconstitute the Bench on the basis of seniority. However, he is reported to have backtracked from his words and is moving the hearing forward with the same Bench.

Janata Samajwadi Party (JSP)

Since their different stances on PM Oli’s House dissolution move, the two factions of the JSP have been warring and are at a verge of a split. On May 25, the Yadav–Bhattarai faction sought justification from four leaders of the Thakur–Mahato faction, while the latter asked justification from Yadav. A three-day ultimatum was given by both groups. Factional decisions and counter-decisions have raised questions over the party’s legitimacy, which will likely reach the Election Commission.

Signaling the heighted polarization in his party, JSP’s federal council chair Dr. Baburam Bhattarai suggested the factions to part ways amicably.

Despite the party’s ongoing crisis, JSP’s Thakur­–Mahato faction is set to join the Oli government with eight ministerial posts and two state ministers. To facilitate the same, the government and Tharuhat groups signed an agreement to initiate the process of withdrawing cases against Resham Chaudhary and other leaders of the Tharuhat movement.

On June 1, JSP’s Yadav–Bhattarai faction expelled four senior leaders, including the party chair Mahant Thakur, from the party; Rajendra Mahato, Laxman Lal Karna, and Sarbendra Nath Sukla are the other three expelled leaders. Meanwhile, the Thakur–Mahato faction expelled another party chair Upendra Yadav from the party. Although there are legal complications, with these decisions, the party has practically split into two.

The Opposition Coalition

The opposition alliance of five parties—NC, CPN–MC, JSP’s Yadav faction, CPN–UML’s Khanal-Nepal faction, and Rashtriya Janamorcha—issued a joint statement against the government’s decision to unveil Budget through ordinance. The statement claims that the government’s move is a clear violation of the constitution.

Governance

Petitioners against the House dissolution move had demanded to constitute a full bench with 11 Supreme Court justices, however, Chief Justice Cholendra Shumsher Rana rejected this demand. The Constitutional Bench will conduct hearings on 19 petitions and 11 others petitions directly filed to the bench.

Arguments are occurring against the composition of the Constitutional Bench which is to review petitions against the House dissolution. The petitioner’s lawyers and justices argued over the composition of the bench and whether it will provide impartiality. The presence of Justice Bam Bahadur Shrestha’s and Tej Bahadur KC on the bench was questioned.

Bam Kumar Shrestha and Tej Bahadur KC refused to recuse whereas Ananda Mohan Bhattarai and Deepak Kumar Karki left the bench which was to conduct hearings on petitions filed against the House dissolution. Chief Justice Cholendra Shumsher Rana, thus, decided to constitute the bench based on seniority. The hearings will start on June 6.

The government agreed to take initiatives to withdraw cases against and release Resham Chaudhary and other Tharu leaders, who were convicted for involvement in the 2015 Tikapur incident. Nine people had died in the incident. The Janata Samajbadi Party had been demanding their release.

Ujwal Thapa, who started a social movement against corruption, social evils, and laid a foundation for alternative politics, died on June 1 due to covid-19 health complications at the age of 44.

The association of lawyers in the Supreme Court of Nepal suggested that Chief Justice Cholendra Shumsher Rana should reconstitute the bench by designating new justices based on their seniority. 30 petitions against the recent House dissolution are yet to be examined by the bench.

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