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I don't know Nepali: Nepal vice president

world Updated: Jul 24, 2009 21:50 IST

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Caught in a fresh row over the use of Hindi language, Nepal's vice president Parmanand Jha Friday virtually defied the order of the Supreme Court asking him to take oath of office once again in Nepali, saying he did not know Nepali.

"Nowhere does the constitution of Nepal say that you have to know Nepali to be the president or vice president of Nepal," the 65-year-old former Supreme Court judge said after the apex court ruled his taking the oath last year in Hindi was unconstitutional and against legal provisions.

"I don't speak Nepali," Jha said. "I can't write Nepali. I speak Maithili, Avadhi and Bhojpuri. If I am compelled to take the oath of office again, I will take it in English."

Jha said the court verdict was muddled, clubbing the president and vice president with the prime minister, who is a political appointee, while the other two are non-political.

"In the absence of the president, the vice president becomes the head of state," Jha said. "The Supreme Court decision will affect the government as well as the judiciary."

He also said that at a time when the country should concentrate on taking the peace process to its conclusion and drafting a new constitution, the apex court ruling added fuel to fire.

Jha, who was elected Nepal's first vice president July 2008 after the former Hindu kingdom became a secular federal republic, created a controversy when he took oath of office in Hindi, the language spoken by Madhesis.

He also wore the 'dhoti' and 'kurta', regarded as Indian clothes and reviled by Nepal's hill community.

There were violent protests after the incident, with the Maoist party demanding Jha's resignation.

Though the protests stopped, an ultra-nationalistic lawyer, Balkrishna Neupane, filed a suit in Supreme Court the same month, challenging the use of Hindi and asking Jha to be sworn again in Nepali.