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Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Constituent Assembly rebirth not possible, say ex-Nepal chief justices

Constituent Assembly rebirth not possible, say ex-Nepal chief justices

At a time when the ruling Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) is pressing hard for the revival of the Constituent Assembly (CA) to promulgate a new constitution, former Chief Justices (CJs) of the country have told Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai that such a process is not possible.
Six former CJs yesterday drew Bhattarai's attention to the fact that promulgating a constitution by reviving the CA would go against a decision of the Supreme Court.
The court had last November put a final six-month term cap on the CA.
"We told the prime minister that as the apex court verdict has placed a cap on the CA term and that the PM himself had dissolved the assembly and declared fresh elections, the CA cannot be revived to promulgate the constitution. Fresh polls are the only alternative," said Ram Prasad Shrestha, one of the six former CJs invited for consultations by Bhattarai.
The former CJs and the PM discussed the legal challenges to reviving the CA to promulgate a statute by incorporating agreed-upon issues and leaving the rest to the next elected body.
The other CJs invited were Hari Sharma, Om Bhakta Shrestha, Keshav Prasad Upadhyay, Anup Raj Sharma and Trailokya Pratap Rana.
However, Shrestha said that the CA could be revived as a legislature-parliament for a brief period to amend the Interim Constitution to hold fresh CA polls. He added that a parliament is necessary to conduct a hearing for appointments to constitutional bodies, including the Election Commission and the apex court.
"We advised the prime minister that the apex court verdict does not prevent the revival of the parliament to amend the constitution. But it has to be for a short period, a maximum of three months," said Shrestha, claiming that this would help remove constitutional difficulties.
Among the Articles of the Interim Constitution to be amended are Article 63 (7), which states that every Nepali citizen who attained the age of 18 by the end of December 15, 2006 will be entitled to vote during the CA elections.
The former CJs also told Bhattarai that the President cannot issue an order to amend the constitution nor can he promulgate ordinances to this end. They told the PM that even to revive the CA as a parliament, political consensus is a must and that the Cabinet needs to endorse the proposal and forward it to the head of state.