Nepal government faces legal battle after reprieve

June 7th, 2011 - 7:24 pm ICT by IANS  

Kathmandu, June 7 (IANS) Ten days after it was saved from dissolution, Nepal’s Communist-led government faced a legal battle Tuesday with the apex court asking to explain why it amended an irrevocable constitutional clause to give itself a fresh lease of life for three months more.

Supreme Court judge Tahir Ali gave the government 10 days to furnish an explanation, saying the case should be given top priority and should be heard by a special bench.

The court action came after two lawyers, Bharat Jangam and Balkrishna Neupane, Sunday challenged the move by the government to give itself three months more after the term of parliament ended May 28.

Besides Prime Minister Jhala Nath Khanal, the lawyers have also filed their case against the law and justice ministry that proposed the controversial amendment, parliament with its nearly 600 MPs who voted for the extension, and the constitutional head, President Ram Baran Yadav, who put his seal of approval on the extension.

The new legal battle began after an earlier verdict by the Supreme Court said that Nepal’s parliament should have written a new constitution by May 28, 2010, as mandated.

It said the house had acted unconstitutionally by extending the time frame by one year more to May 28, 2011.

However, ignoring the ruling that the constitutional deadline could not be extended endlessly, Nepal’s government and parliament, which failed to complete the constitution even by May 28, 2010, then extended it a second time by three months.

Now the term of parliament and with it, that of the government, ends Aug 28.

Though the major parties agreed to complete the first draft of the constitution by the deadline, there is serious doubt about their ability to do so.

Instead of focusing on the constitution and the peace process, the caretaker government has been on a reshuffle spree, transferring security officials and civil servants, that made the main opposition party, the Nepali Congress, lodge a complaint Tuesday.

The prime minister has also refused to step down though that was one of the conditions he had agreed to in order to persuade the opposition parties to support the extension.

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

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