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Nepal King plotting another coup?

An expert feels that Gyanendra's act of reviving Parliament is unconstitutional.

india Updated: Apr 27, 2006 11:36 IST

An expert on Nepal's constitutional law says King Gyanendra's act of reinstating parliament through a royal proclamation is unconstitutional, leaving room for doubt that he may try to seize power again.

"The constitution doesn't give the King such sweeping powers," said Yubaraj Sangroula, executive director at Kathmandu School of Law.

"By reviving the house on his own, he signals he still has absolute power to make and unmake such stupendous decisions on his own."

The reinstatement would have been legitimate had it been ordered by Nepal's Supreme Court, he said.

In a nationwide television telecast on Monday night, Gyanendra said he was handing over power to the people and announced that he was reinstating the House of Representatives, the lower house of parliament, that would meet from Friday.

Since 2001, when Gyanendra became King and began controlling the government, lawyers say he also began influencing the judiciary.

Hari Prasad Sharma, the chief justice in 2005, became controversial after he hailed the King's power grab.

Sangroula said the Supreme Court failed to act as the custodian of justice and contributed to the King's absolute reign.

The crisis started in May 2002 after the King dissolved the House of Representatives, sacked prime minister Sher Bahadur Deuba in October and appointed three prime ministers without a new parliament.

Fearing a constitutional crisis, a lawyer petitioned the Supreme Court in 2002, asking it to revive the house. But the petition is still gathering dust.

Four days before Gyanendra sacked him again and sent him to jail, Deuba had a premonition and consulted Sangroula.

"I told him since the petition was already in court, he should ask it to be heard," Sangroula said.

"Or he could activate lawyers to file a fresh petition. If parliament had been reinstated, the King couldn't have sacked him and begun direct rule."

The legal expert concedes there was a political necessity for restoring the house quickly.

With anti-King protesters vowing to surround Kathmandu on Tuesday with about two million demonstrators, there were fears of a riot and bloodbath.

Still, all options to defuse the situation were not explored.

"At a time people want to end rule by kings, if he is still allowed to act unconstitutionally and take such bold steps, how can we hope to have a non-interfering, powerless king?" Sangroula said.

The next few months would show if the King has really accepted the people's verdict.

"People want a constituent assembly election to decide if Nepal should stay a kingdom or become a republic. But the present constitution has no provision to hold such an election," Sangroula said.

"So the reinstated house would have to amend the constitution. For that they would need the King's assent, though it's a formality.

"When the house sends the proposal to the King, he can stall it for two months. Then he can sign it or return it with recommendations for changes," he said.

"However, the house is not bound to implement them. If it sends the proposal to the King again, he would have to sign it. At the most, he can delay it for another two months.

"He can use the time to make covert manipulations," Sangroula said. "He can try to divide the parties, he can even use the army again."