Nepal SC ousts most of PM Oli’s cabinet
Nepal’s Supreme Court delivered a fresh blow to embattled communist Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli by removing 20 recently appointed ministers, pending a ruling on whether a caretaker premier can make such sweeping cabinet changes.
“This is an interim order and the court will give its final verdict later,” court official Bhadrakali Pokharel told news agency Reuters on Wednesday, a day after the decision by a two-judge bench.
With the Himalayan country struggling to contain a deadly second wave of coronavirus infections and beset by political turmoil, Oli lost a vote of confidence in May as a result of factional infighting within his Communist Party of Nepal (UML).
Oli dissolved parliament and ordered fresh elections for November, while staying on as caretaker prime minister until the elections are held.
In a bid to hold onto power and ditch opponents within his own party, Oli ealier this month dropped most ministers from his cabinet, and named 20 replacements, who were mainly members of a junior coalition partner.
The ministerial appointments had been “against the spirit of the constitution”, the Supreme Court judges said, as Oli was only a caretaker prime minister.
The court’s removal of the 20 ministers means the cabinet is left with just five members, including the prime minister.
“The prime minister had completely disregarded the constitution in making the appointments … the court has applied a brake to this,” petitioner Dinesh Tripathi said.
There was no immediate comment from Oli but his aide Rajan Bhattarai said the government would comply with court order, though he described it as “politically incorrect”.
Meanwhile, on Wednesday, a five-member Constitutional Bench of the Supreme Court began hearing nearly 30 petitions challenging Oli’s dissolution of parliament.
The hearing began with the writ jointly filed by 146 lawmakers backing Nepali Congress president Sher Bahadur Deuba’s claim to prime ministership.
According to the apex court’s order, 15 hours have been allocated to the writ petitioners and respondents for pleading.
On June 9, the court had issued a show-cause notice to the defendants -- Office of the President and Office of the Prime Minister and Council of Ministers -- seeking explanation on their decision to dissolve the House, within 15 days.
Both, the Office of the President and the Prime Minister, in their written replies to the court, had justified their move to dissolve the House.
Asserting that the House of Representatives was dissolved as per the constitutional provisions, Bhandari told the Supreme Court that it cannot overturn her decision on the matter or subject it to a judicial review.
On his part, Oli told the court that it is not up to the judiciary to appoint a premier as it cannot undertake the legislative and the executive functions of the state.The petitioners, however, say the President should have left it for the House to test if Deuba had a majority or not. Had he failed to prove a majority, he would have been unseated, thereby leading to the automatic dissolution of the House.
While Nepali politicians are locked in a power struggle the coronavirus continues to spread, with levels of testing and vaccination both woefully inadequate. Still, official data suggested that the second wave probably peaked in May. Some 3,703 new infections were reported on Tuesday, compared with a daily peak of 9,305 reported on May 12.
Meanwhile, Nepali Congress president Deuba has called a meeting of the opposition alliance on Wednesday evening.
The meeting will discuss the latest political developments, and the Supreme Court’s decision on Cabinet expansion, a Nepali Congress leader said.