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An avoidable confrontation during transition

world Updated: Dec 29, 2011 00:53 IST
Utpal Parashar

Tuesday was a bad day in office for Nepal's prime minister Baburam Bhattarai and constituent assembly speaker Subhas Nembang. The country's supreme court rejected their petitions seeking review of an earlier order passed last month.

Besides embarrassing the government and the CA, which doubles as the country's parliament, the decision has led to a debate on whether the apex court had overstepped its limit by intervening in the parliament's jurisdiction.

In November, acting on a petition the SC had allowed lawmakers one last chance to draft the constitution before May 28, 2012, failing which the CA's term would expire automatically.

Constituted in 2008, the CA was given two years to draft Nepal's new constitution. The interim constitution allowed a six month extension if the job wasn't completed within that deadline. But despite four extensions - the task is nowhere near completion.

A month after the verdict, Bhattarai and Nembang filed separate petitions seeking review on the ground that the judiciary had stepped on the legislature's independence and infringed constitutional provision.

But the apex court even refused to register the petitions.

The decision gave an opportunity to cartoonists to lampoon Bhattarai and Nembang and paved way for fresh confrontation between the executive, legislature and the judiciary during the transition phase.

"The supreme court decision is infringement in parliament's jurisdiction. Its contempt of parliament's sovereignty," said law and justice minister Brijesh Kumar Gupta.

In its earlier verdict, the SC had given three options if CA failed to draft the statute before May 28. Take a referendum, conduct fresh polls to elect a new body to draft the constitution or seek some other alternative.

Now the government and parliament have two options if they want to continue confrontation with the judiciary. Move court seeking re-consideration of the decision to reject the review petitions or amend the provision in interim constitution that set two-year tenure for CA.

Or it could choose the third and best option. Get on with the task of drafting the statute and give the country a superlative constitution within the five months left for expiry of another deadline.