Nepal’s Supreme Court ordered the reinstatement of parliament for the second time: What is its political significance?

Oli’s decision to dissolve parliament has been declared unconstitutional. The Supreme Court has ordered to appoint Sher Bahadur Deuba as the prime minister.

Nishan Khatiwada

  • Read Time 3 min.

Kathmandu: Nepal’s Supreme Court (SC) has reinstated the lower house which was dissolved on May 21 by the KP Oli-led government. Moreover, the apex court has also issued a mandamus order in the name of the President to appoint Sher Bahadur Deuba as the prime minister within two days.  

Monday’s SC order came in response to the cases filed at the Supreme Court challenging PM Oli’s decision to dissolve Parliament. On May 24, 146 lawmakers led by Nepali Congress President Sher Bahadur Deuba had filed a case at the Supreme Court demanding restoration of the House of Representatives and recognizing Deuba as a prime minister. 

The court has said a meeting of the reinstated parliament must be called within seven days. 

This is the second time the apex court has ordered the reinstatement of Parliament since February in less than seven months. This is probably the first time the SC has issued a mandamus order to appoint a leader as the prime minister. 

Political significance

The decision this time is viewed with high significance as it will set a precedent for the future course of Nepal’s parliamentary democracy and nascent republic system.

It has categorically defined Article 76 that describes the conditions to dissolve Parliament. It has also defined judicial power. The verdict has also defined the executive power of the prime minister, and the limitations of the PM to dissolve the House.

The decision this time is viewed with high significance as it will set a precedent for the future course of Nepal’s parliamentary democracy and nascent republic system.

For the first time in political history, probably a rare case in global politics too, lawmakers were physically present at the court claiming their majority against the PM Oli. And, for the first time, the court has issued a mandamus order for the appointment of a prime minister. 

As many as 30 writ petitions were filed at the apex court against the move of the PM and the President after the parliament was dissolved on May 21. 

How it started  

On the day of Oli’s floor test, President Bidya Devi Bhandari gave three days’ time to the opposition parties to garner a joint majority and form a new government pursuant to Article 76 (2). 

The opposition alliance of Nepali Congress and Maoist Center failed to claim a majority to form a government and KP Oli was reappointed as prime minister on May 13 as per Article 76 (3). 

CPN-UML had the highest number of lawmakers. This allowed the President to appoint KP Oli as the PM, for he was the parliamentary party leader of CPN-UML.

However, KP Oli had to win the vote of confidence within 30 days of his reappointment pursuant to Article 76 (4).  Everyone was watching how or whether Oli would win the vote of confidence. 

A week after reappointment, on May 20, instead of securing the vote of confidence from parliament as mandated by Article 76(4),  KP Oli recommended President Bidya Devi Bhandari to initiate the process for forming the new government as per Article 75 (5). He claimed that the chances to win the vote of confidence were slim at the time and, therefore, he did not have to take a floor test.

President Bhandari on May 20 gave the deadline until 5 PM of May 21–even less than 24 hours–to a member of the House of Representatives to stake a claim for the new government garnering a majority as per Article 76 (5). 

But just before the opposition alliance submitted signatures of 149 lawmakers, including 26 of the Madhav Nepal-Jhalanath Khanal faction of KP Oli led CPN-UML, to the President, Oli also submitted a letter to the President with his signatures along with the signatures of Janata Samajbadi Party-Nepal chair Mahanta Thakur and the party’s parliamentary party leader Rajendra Mahato. He claimed that he had the support of 153 lawmakers. 

While the people were figuring out whose claim could be valid, on May 21 past midnight, President Bhandari, on the recommendation of the Council of Ministers, dissolved the House of Representatives for the second time and declared midterm elections for November 12 and 19.

Before the House dissolution, the President dismissed both the claims made by Sher Bahadur Deuba (opposition alliance) and KP Sharma Oli.