Like Oli, like Deuba – Manoj Satyal

The government has registered a bill in the National Assembly to amend the act related to the Constitutional Council in a way that appointments at constitutional bodies can be made by just three members of the Constitutional Council.

The existing Constitutional Council Act stresses on efforts for consensus while taking decision failing which decision can be taken in the subsequent meeting by the majority of the total number of members.

It requires presence of at least four members of the six-strong Constitutional Council to constitute quorum. The bill brought by the government needs presence of just 50 percent of the total strength or three members to constitute quorum.

The Constitutional Council chaired by the prime minister (PM) includes chief justice (CJ), House speaker and deputy speaker, National Assembly chairman and the main opposition leader.

The post of deputy speaker is vacant since resignation of the then deputy speaker Shiva Maya Tumbahangphe before election of Agni Sapkota as speaker as she and Sapkota both came from the then ruling CPN. The Constitution requires House speaker and deputy speaker to come from different parties.

CJ Cholendra Shumsher Rana has also been suspended after registration of impeachment motion against him and Deepak Kumar Karki is currently leading the judiciary as an acting CJ.

If the bill is endorsed Constitutional Council meeting can be convened and decision taken even if the main opposition leader KP Sharma Oli and National Assembly Chairman Ganesh Prasad Timalsina, who comes from CPN-UML, do not attend the meeting.

The amendment bill has a provision which says that Constitutional Council chairman and majority of at least 50 percent of the existing members can take decion through majority. This means PM Sher Bahadur Deuba, Speaker Agni Sapkota and Acting CJ Karki can take decision through majority even in absence of Oli and Timalsina.

The amendment bill brought by the Deuba government is similar in essence to the ordinance brought by the then Oli government in 2020 with a provision that allowed decision in the Constitutional Council with support of the majority of the existing members.

The Constitutional Council meeting chaired by Oli on December 15, 2020 had decided to fill the vacancies in accordance to the ordinance that he brought and was was hastily endorsed by President Bidya Devi Bhandari. The meeting held hours after Oli unilaterally brought the ordinance had recommended to fill all the vacant constitutional positions.

Only the then PM Oli, CJ Rana and National Assembly Chairman Ganesh Prasad Timalsina had attended the meeting with Speaker Agni Sapkota and the then main opposition leader Sher Bahadur Deuba boycotting the meeting.

The six-strong Constitutional Council only had five members even then with the post of deputy speaker remaining vacant since resignation of the then deputy speaker Shiva Maya Tumbahangphe before election of Sapkota as speaker.

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