South Asians for Human Rights (SAHR), a regional network of human rights defenders, expresses its deep concern on the political crisis evolving in Nepal with the Prime Minister dissolving the Lower House of Representatives (HoR) of the Federal Parliament.
The promulgation of the new Constitution in September 2015, declared Nepal a republican, federal and secular polity, leading the populace to hope that the country would enter an era of democracy, political stability and economic growth. However, citing his inability to run the Government due to obstructions placed on his powers, Prime Minister Oli announced dissolution of the HoR and elections in April-May. His recommendation was promptly approved by President Bidya Devi Bhandari.
There is a raft of cases registered against the Prime Minister’s move in the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court, headed by the Chief Justice Cholendra Shumshere Rana, is conducting consolidated hearings through the Constitutional Bench. These cases note that the Constitution seeks to prevent dissolution of Parliament, and has instead provided a step-by-step process of the selection of the prime ministers in the event of a no-confidence. This was included in the Constitution of 2015 based on Nepal’s experience of successive parliamentary dissolutions going back to 1960.
The current political crisis threatens Nepal’s parliamentary democracy and the smooth functioning of the democratic institutions including the Judiciary, the Elections Commission and the Office of the President of the Republic. As the political climate becomes increasingly charged, those in Government as well as those in opposition are making prejudicial statements with regard to the Supreme Court. Several former Chief Justices have released a statement terming the dissolution of the HoR unconstitutional and undemocratic. In the meantime, the police had used force to disperse people at a peaceful protest approaching the Prime Minister’s residence and many activists including HRDs were arrested.
SAHR believes that in Nepal, or in any other democratic nation where the role of the Judiciary has been constantly compromised, the Judiciary is the institution of last resort, and it should be kept above the fray. We believe that the Supreme Court Constitutional Bench will not be impacted by the political polarisation and will function independently to preserve the constitutional rights of the people of Nepal with respect to democratic values. Nepal’s development of the society based on inclusion, equity, human rights, transitional justice, federal devolution and local self-government essentially depends on continuation of constitutional rule.
SAHR urges all political players in Nepal, and in particular the Government, to refrain from speeches and actions that would compromise the independence of the Supreme Court and its Constitutional Bench. It urges the Government of Nepal and all political parties to await and abide by the forthcoming Supreme Court decision.
On behalf of the members of South Asians for Human Rights,
Dr. Radhika Coomaraswamy
Dr. Roshmi Goswami