Hearing on House dissolution to take at least one more week to conclude

 Amid a growing concern over the delay in the hearing of the petitions against the dissolution of House Representatives, Chief Justice Cholendra Shumsher Rana on Sunday said it was necessary to conclude the hearing process within one week by Friday.

The Rana-led Constitutional Bench, which is hearing the case, allotted a maximum of 30 minutes to each lawyer. However, despite the court’s effort the hearing is going beyond Friday. The officials at the Supreme Court say it will take at least one more week from Thursday to conclude the hearing process.

Kishor Poudel, a communication expert at the Supreme Court, said the lawyers defending the dissolution will conclude their arguments by Thursday afternoon and the lawyers representing Speaker Agni Sapkota will start their arguments from the same day. Sapkota had submitted a written justification in the court claiming the Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli doesn’t have the authority to dissolve the House. Five lawyers will be presenting the arguments from Sapkota’s side.

As the Cabinet on Monday decided to give a public holiday on Friday for Sonam Lhosar, Sapkota’s lawyers will conclude their argument earliest by Sunday. “Then will come the turn of the 13 petitioners to put their arguments countering the defendants,” Poudel told the Post. “That will be followed by the statements from the amicus curiae.” The five amicus will put their arguments on President Bidya Devi Bhandari’s move to dissolve the Lower House based on the recommendation from Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli.

The amicus will put their arguments without taking any sides. Poudel said the hearing will be concluded earliest by February 17.

The petitioners also have a similar view.

Dinesh Tripathi, one of the petitioners, said he expects the hearing to conclude in a week and the court will give a verdict in next one week. “As this is a serious issue, the court will take at least one week after the conclusion of the hearing to announce its verdict,” he told the Post. “We can expect the decision in the next two weeks.”

As many as 13 petitions have been filed against the dissolution of the House of Representatives, claiming the constitution doesn’t allow the prime minister to dissolve the House. Conducting the preliminary hearing on December 23, the single bench of Rana decided to send them to the Constitutional Bench.

A five-member Constitutional Bench led by Rana was constituted on December 25, which after opening remarks from the petitioners, issued a show cause notice to the Office of the President and the government demanding a written justification for their move to dissolve the House by January 3.

It has sought clarification from them asking why the court should not issue an order as demanded by the petitioners who have sought revocation of the President's approval to dissolve the House based on the government’s recommendation. The final hearing began on January 6, after the written justification from the Office of the President and the government. However, the hearing was more focused on whether the petitions should be taken to the extended full bench from the Constitutional Bench.

There was also the issue raised by the petitioners as Justice Hari Krishna Karki, who served as Attorney General in Oli’s government in 2015, was part of the Constitutional Bench. Karki on January 6 recused himself from the bench following the controversy.

The final hearing formally began on January 15 after the Constitutional Bench said the judgment of petitions falls under its jurisdiction and it was not necessary to send them to the extended bench.

It took 15 days for the lawyers from the plaintiff to put their arguments. The defendant lawyers led by Attorney General Agni Kharel started their argument on February 1 which will conclude after 11 days on Thursday.

While the Constitutional Bench wanted to shorten the hearing, constitutional experts too have been saying the delay will only invite the complexities. Talking to the Post last week Bipin Adhikari, former dean at Kathmandu University School of Law, had said as there was unnecessary repetition in the arguments the court should ask to cut them short. “The hearing process was lingering unnecessarily,” he told the Post.