Whether or not Oli and Rana met in Baluwatar, there is a widespread perception that there is an unnatural closeness between the two, says another former Justice, Gauri Bahadur Karki: “The court should not be influenced by politics.”
On the other hand, the Supreme Court and Chief Justice Rana, in particular, could also be swayed by the strong condemnation in Nepal’s public sphere against Prime Minister Oli’s dissolution of the Lower House. Which is why what the Supreme Court decides in the coming days is so crucial.
This is not the first time that a House dissolution writ is being heard in Nepal’s Supreme Court. In 1995 then Chief Justice Bishwanath Upadhyay had ruled that Prime Minister Manmohan Adhikari’s dissolution of the House was unconstitutional even though the Constitution at the time had given the prime minister the automatic right to do so. The 2015 Constitution is much more categorical in not giving the head of the government that right.
In 1994, Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala had also dissolved the House after a rival faction of the Nepali Congress voted against his government, leading to early elections in which the UML came to power.
PM Oli’s move on 20 December to dissolve the House and call snap polls in April-May next year has been followed by tit-for-tat dismissals of functionaries by the two factions of the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP).
Nepal is now ruled under a one-party two Central Committees system. On Tuesday, PM Oli as ‘first Chair’ called a meeting of the Party Central Committee and swore in 447 new members into the party, appointed Foreign Minister Pradeep Gyawali as party spokesperson in place of Narayan Kaji Shrestha, but kept arch-rival Pushpa Kamal Dahal in the party.
Later in the day, the rival faction held its own Central Committee meeting in which it decided to take disciplinary action against Oli and relieved him from party chairmanship, replacing him with former prime minister and Dahal loyalist, Madhav Kumar Nepal. It also decided to re-instate former Speaker Krishna Bahadur Mahara, who resigned in disgrace last year after allegations of raping a colleague.
The political feud in the NCP in the federal legislature is also trickling down to the provincial governments, where four chief ministers regarded as being close to Prime Minister Oli are facing challenges in the assemblies from the Dahal-Nepal lawmakers.
The Election Commission will now have to decide which faction can use the NCP label and election symbol, based on which side has a majority in the party working committee. Prime Minister Oli also met the Election commissioners on Tuesday, where they are reported to have proposed a single phase poll to save money in May 2021.