Legal challenge to Nepal house extension (Lead)

May 29th, 2011 - 4:20 pm ICT by IANS  

Kathmandu, May 29 (IANS) Though Nepal averted a constitutional meltdown for now, the government now faces a fresh legal battle with a lawyer challenging the extension of parliament’s term.

Bharat Mani Jangam, who filed a writ in Supreme Court last week saying parliament should be deemed dissolved from May 28 midnight, said the hearing on his petition will begin Monday.

Nepal’s beleaguered Prime Minister Jhala Nath Khanal agreed Sunday to step down in exchange for the three major parties signing a deal to extend the constitutional deadline by three more months, a step that constitutional lawyers warned was illegal and would plunge the republic into further crises.

Nepal’s interim constitution and parliament faced dissolution at Saturday midnight after the bickering parties failed to draft a new constitution in three years, a task started in 2008 and regarded as the foundation of the peace accord that saw the Maoist guerrillas lay down arms after a decade of insurgency.

“The parties have raped the constitution and law,” said Bharat Jangam. “They disregarded the Supreme Court’s ruling last week that parliament’s term can’t be extended any more. I will fight the fresh extension to the end.”

The reprieved government will also face a tough time from the Terai parties, whose demands are likely to trigger a nationwide debate.

The regional parties, among other things, are now calling for 10,000 people from the plains to be recruited in the army. The army says it will not accept any politically motivated en masse induction.

The additional three months are likely to be frittered away on more power fights instead of drafting the new constitution.

Though the Nepali Congress and the Terai parties want Khanal to step down immediately, the prime minister’s political advisor Prakash Jwala indicated Sunday that the premier will not quit till all the parties had agreed on a new government.

Last year, Khanal’s predecessor Madhav Kumar Nepal had to promise under similar circumstances to step down so as to get the approval of the MPs for an extension of the constitutional deadline.

But subsequently, it took the warring parties seven months and 17 rounds of elections to pick Khanal as the new premier and parliament was able to sit only for 95 minutes in 12 months to draft the new constitution.

(Sudeshna Sarkar can be contacted at sudeshna.s@ians.in)

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