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Legal sword hangs over Nepal government
Kathmandu, May 26 (IANS):
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Published on 26 May. 2011 9:53 PM IST
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With just two days left for Nepal’s constitution, parliament and government to lose their validity, beleaguered communist Prime Minister Jhala Nath Khanal faced a fresh legal blow Thursday. A lawyer filed a writ petition in Supreme Court, asking it to stop all parliamentary activities from Saturday midnight.
The new challenge to the government and nearly 600 legislators is thrown by the same lawyer who had earlier challenged the authority of the government to give itself an extra year when it could not complete its mandated task of drafting a new constitution by May 28, 2010.
On Wednesday, Nepal’s Supreme Court, while scrapping lawyer Bharat Jangam’s petition, however came down heavily on the government and parliament, saying they could not extend the time for writing the constitution infinitely under flimsy pretexts.
The five judges hearing the petition, including Chief Justice Khila Raj Regmi, also said that the government had acted wrongly last year by extending the time by one year.
They said it went against the interim constitution that says unequivocally that only the imposition of a state of emergency, brought on by war or a natural disaster, would allow the state to give itself six months more. The special bench ruled that if the government sought to give itself still more time, it would be subject to judicial review.
Taking his cue from the judgment, Jangam filed a new writ in the apex court Thursday, saying that with the interim constitution, parliament and government’s tenure ending Saturday midnight, the court should stop the house from holding any more activity as it would become invalid.
The new challenge would be heard by the Supreme Court Friday. Besides the legal blow, the prime minister faced mounting protests from all sides.
Rastriya Prajatantra Party Nepal, the only pro-monarchy party that is calling for the restoration of Hinduism as the state religion and the reinstatement of the crown, Thursday defied the ban on demonstrations near parliament. Led by former home minister Kamal Thapa, royalists clashed with police, creating chaos and disrupting traffic for hours.
Thapa is demanding a fresh poll to elect a new parliament and has warned of further protests in the days to come. A Hindu organisation, the Vishwa Hindu Mahasangh, has called a nationwide shutdown Friday, demanding a Hindu state in Nepal, an end to cow slaughter and a ban on conversions.
Alarmed by the situation, Nepal’s President Ram Baran Yadav Thursday summoned the leaders of the three largest parties, whose bickering over power has kept the peace process and drafting of the new constitution deadlocked for three years.
The president urged the prime minister, his ally, Maoist chief Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda, and the leader of the opposition Nepali Congress party, Sushil Koirala, to reach an agreement before the constitutional deadline ended Saturday. The prime minister’s media advisor, Surya Thapa, said the three leaders had begun talks to avert the crisis.
However, given the long record of disharmony among the three, there is little hope of a real understanding.
The Nepali Congress is asking the Maoists to hand over the weapons of their guerrilla army to the government. But the former rebels’ refusal to do so has come in the way of reaching an agreement.

 
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