Plans to break Nepal’s political impasse by holding elections under a government led by Chief Justice Khil Raj Regmi faced further setback on Friday with the Nepal Bar Association, the federal organisation of practising lawyers, warning that such a move would go against the Interim Constitution. Office bearers of the Bar issued the warning during a meeting with senior leaders of the four political parties who are trying to build consensus on an election government led by Mr. Regmi.
“Appointing the Chief Justice as the Prime Minister goes against constitutionalism, the Interim Constitution and the principle of separations of power,” said Sunil Pokhrel, General Secretary of the Bar.
The ruling parties — United Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) and the United Democratic Madhesi Front — together with two of the opposition parties — Nepali Congress (NC) and the Communist Party of Nepal-United Marxist Leninist (CPN-UML) — agreed last Saturday to form such a government to hold another Constituent Assembly election.
Many middle-ranking leaders from the opposition parties, however, rejected the idea.
Gagan Thapa, who is a Central Committee member of the Nepali Congress, told The Hindu that the idea “is not an agenda that will help hold elections at the earliest”.
Mr. Regmi’s position would be complicated by the fact that there are several Supreme Court decisions, such as the sentence on Maoist lawmaker Bal Krishna Dhungel on a murder case dating back to the Maoist ‘People’s War’, which the government has not implemented.
The Maoists are adamant that such cases should only be looked at by a Truth and Reconciliation Commission. But the Commission, which was supposed to be formed six months after the signing of the peace agreement that ended the Maoist ‘People’s War’ in 2006, has not materialised due to disagreements over amnesty provisions for serious human rights abuses committed during the war by the Nepal Army and the Maoist guerillas.
“How, then, will the Chief Justice return to the Supreme Court after his government does not carry out the verdicts of the Court?” Mr. Thapa asked.
The four parties, on Mr. Regmi’s demand, have agreed that he would return to his position at the Supreme Court after his government holds the elections, according to several negotiators privy to the discussions.
The statement from the Bar comes close on the heels of Thursday’s consultations among senior leaders of the four parties and prominent lawyers. On Friday, the local media reported that the proposal for an election government enjoyed wide support from the legal fraternity.
“The Bar wants to clarify that there is no such support from the legal fraternity,” said Mr. Pokhrel.
The petition filed at the Supreme Court seeking an order against the move is another hurdle. The petition was on the list of hearings prepared by Mr. Regmi on Friday, but it was postponed until Sunday, ostensibly due to time constraint.