Language of the republic

September 4, 2009 at 5:11 am Leave a comment

Language of the republic

Nepal’s Supreme Court’s decision on the legality of the Vice President’s oath— a year after it was administered—raises several questions of constitutional importance. 

Dr. Katak Malla

 Among so many other contentious issues, the Federal Republic of Nepal is still in confusion about what language should be used. Following the Indo-US fashion, Nepal’s Chief Justice Kedar Prasad Giri administered the oath of office to Dr. Ram Baran Yadav, the first President of the Republic, on 24 July, 2008. Subsequently, the President administered the oath to the Vice President Paramananda Jha.

Over a year later the Supreme Court of Nepal (23 August, 2009) declared the Vice President’s oath in Hindi as illegal, though the written oath was submitted in Nepali language.

Note that the US President Barack Obama retook the oath of office the day after his initial oath. There was one particular word out of sequence in the oath as it was administered by the US Chief Justice John Roberts, and the matter was attended to within 24 hours.

Nepal’s Supreme Court’s decision on the legality of the Vice President’s oath— a year after it was administered—raises several questions of constitutional importance.

Firstly, how is it possible that someone can hold the second highest public position in Nepal illegally, according to the Supreme Court, for over a year?

Secondly, if the Vice President’s oath is indeed illegal, what about the President’s role conducting the oath and the Chief Judge who allowed this to happen?

This absurdity leads to a further question not only about the President as the head of the State’s lack of ability to perform the duties of his office, but also the shortcomings of the President’s legal advisors as well as the country’s Attorney General.

On the whole, it suggests that the Supreme Court itself is responsible for conducting and/or observing the oath ceremony (which now a year later is declared an illegal act by the Court) and taking a year to judge the legality of it.

The problem with the Supreme Court ruling is that it is against the principle of natural justice, i.e. “one cannot judge his/her own action.” The Constituent Assembly would have been the appropriate authority to decide on this matter, but it does not seem to do its job either.

While there is a case pending in the Court concerning the President’s decision in appointing Nepal’s army chief, the slowness in realising its mistake in case of the Vice President oath is against the principle of prompt justice, i.e. “justice delayed is justice denied”, to the people of Nepal .

Is the Vice President alone responsible for that the Court found his oath illegal? What about the President and Chief Justice’s duty concerning his oath?  

At the swearing in ceremony, the Chief Justice was representing the entire judiciary of the country. He was not only administering the oath to the President, but also observing the oath of the Vice President administered by the President. These three individuals were supposed to know what language ought to be used while taking the oath of office by the Vice President. If not, they should have consulted with each other prior to the function, or immediately after the ceremony and taken corrective measure accordingly.

Irrespective of the right or wrong language used by the Vice President while taking his oath of office, the constitutional issue involved in this matter is that the President, the Vice President and the Chief Justice have failed to distinguish between themselves and the institutions they represent.

With all respect to the three high-ranking public office-bearers of the republic, it is self-evident that it is not only the President and Vice President, but also the Supreme Court justices who have clearly failed to follow the law of the land.

The issue of language should have been decided by the people’s representatives at the Constituent Assembly. Instead, there has been an outrageous betrayal to the principle of representative democracy by the Assembly, a blow to the integrity of the Assembly that is basically self-inflicted. The Constituent Assembly, however, still has time to correct its wrongs.  

(The author can be reached at:  )




Entry filed under: Uncategorized.

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