Worries grow as NCP rival factions issue veiled threats to influence Supreme Court verdict on parliament dissolution

KATHMANDU, Jan 4: Not only the constitutional experts but also the general public have grown worried as top leaders of the rival factions of the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) are engaged in issuing veiled threats to the Supreme Court, which is due to pass its verdict on Prime Minister KP Oli’s controversial decision to dissolve the lower house of the federal parliament.

While the top leaders of the Pushpa Kamal Dahal and Madhav Kumar Nepal-led faction have repeatedly said in a veiled threat that "they believe that the Supreme Court will revoke the decision to dissolve parliament” and that ‘they will be forced to retaliate if the decision is not revoked’, Prime Minister KP Oli and leaders close to him have been maintaining in public that the apex court does not have any ground to revoke the decision and that it is competent enough to quash the claims made by the Dahal-Nepal faction.

Legal experts have warned that such attempts by both factions to put undue pressure on the court to issue a verdict in their favor will only further erode whatever little integrity the country’s judiciary has been able to safeguard so far. But it is immature to predict the verdict or assert that the verdict will be in their favor when the case is still sub judice.

Worried over such attempts by the top leaders in the recent mass gathering of leaders and cadres close to them, senior advocates and constitutional experts have expressed serious concern over the fate of the country's judicial system itself. "It is the sole right of the Supreme Court to make decisions on any dispute. Making statements that issue veiled threats to the court or try to pressure or persuade it helps no one," constitutional expert Bipin Adhikari tweeted while referring to the remarks of top leaders of both the Oli and Dahal-Nepal faction of the NCP.

Senior journalist Kanak Mani Dixit seconded him saying such attempts by the top leaders will further erode the integrity of the judiciary as a whole. "Prime Minister Oli and the Dahal faction are supposed to put forth their arguments before the public. But they cannot make predictions or make statements with certainty about the decision to be made by the court," he tweeted.

At least 12 writ petitions have been filed at the apex court over the decision of Prime Minister Oli to dissolve the House of Representatives (HoR) on December 20. After a preliminary hearing made earlier last week, a constitutional bench at the apex court is scheduled to conduct a hearing on the writ petitions again on Wednesday.

Responding to a show-cause notice issued by the Supreme Court on December 25 last year, Prime Minister Oli has defended his move saying dissolving parliament was a political move and that it does not warrant any judicial review. In the response furnished to the apex court through the Attorney General on Sunday, Oli argued that his decision to recommend to the President to dissolve the lower house of the federal parliament and the President’s endorsement of the same were purely political decisions.

While arguing that the government could not fulfill its promises made through the elections due to the growing conflict within the party, Prime Minister Oli has said that he, therefore, decided to go to the people to seek a fresh mandate. New election dates have already been announced for April 30 and May 10.

The Dahal-Nepal faction, however, has been maintaining that the current constitution does not provide any ground to dissolve parliament. Although President Bidya Bhandari has cited Article 76 (1 and 7) and Article 85 of the Constitution of Nepal for the dissolution of parliament as recommended by Prime Minister Oli, the faction has argued that these constitutional provisions do not allow the prime minister to dissolve parliament in current political circumstances and warned of taking to the streets if the decision to dissolve parliament was not revoked.