Oath-taking imbroglio

September 11, 2009 at 1:31 am Leave a comment


Oath-taking imbroglio


The first Vice President (VP) of the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal Parmananda Jha surprised many by neither resigning from his post nor retaking the oath in Nepali as directed by the Supreme Court (SC). Instead, he opted to stay home and not to attend office until there is an amendment in the constitutional provision related to oath-taking. The repercussion of the VP’s adamant stand is already being felt in almost all the sectors of governance.

Obviously, the first casualty is the government itself. Though there is no dearth of legal pundits giving arguments that, with the court’s nullification of the VP’s oath-taking and the elected VP’s refusal to take fresh oath in Nepali, the position of VP has fallen vacant. Now, it is the duty of the government to make provisions to fill the vacant position. When asked about three conditions provisioned in the constitution under which the position of VP falls vacant – death, voluntary resignation and impeachment – these pundits argue that the constitutional provisions cannot be enforced here. They say that since the VP has refused to take oath in Nepali, he has forfeited himself from being in the position of the VP, therefore the constitutional provision do not apply here. However, they remain mute when asked about what will happen to the decisions made or the perks and facilities enjoyed by the VP during his tenure prior to the court verdict. Their only argument is that since the president has never been out of the country or on leave, the VP has never been in a decision-making position. Other legal pundits argue that Jha is still an elected VP. Due to the court’s nullification of his oath-taking, his position has been inactivated. In the midst of this legal quagmire, the government is waiting for the court verdict on the filed review petition.

Following the amendment of the constitution, the conflict between the vice president and the Supreme Court (SC) will become a conflict between the Constituent Assembly and the SC.

Three Tarai-Madhesi political parties in the present coalition government, namely Madhesi People’s Rights Forum-Democratic, Tarai Madhes Democratic Party and the Nepal Sadbhavana Party must be having a difficult time. Neither can they support the VP’s move nor can they oppose it. If they oppose the move, they will immediately lose their constituency. Meanwhile, Madhesi People’s Rights Forum Chairman Upendra Yadav, which has refused to join the coalition government, is on a prowl for a big haul. Yadav has already suggested Jha to resign from his position than to take oath in Nepali. He is also the first and foremost person to praise Jha for taking the bold decision not to take oath in Nepali. If Tarai-Madhesi regional parties are to support the VP, it will be morally difficult for them to stay in the government led by CPN-UML which, along with Nepali Congress (NC), is determined to uphold the verdict of the court. This must be the reason why the regional parties are busy holding parleys on the oath-taking crisis. The stake is really high for them. First, they took a stand that the VP should not take oath in Nepali but as pressures built on, they advocated taking oath in Nepali and Maithili languages.

NC’s Ram Chandra Paudel is heard blaming the Maoists for the ongoing oath-taking crisis. His reasoning goes like this: “To end the crisis, we are ready to amend the constitution but the Maoists are blocking the sessions in the House.” Could this be the reason why Tarai-Madhesi political parties are requesting the Maoists not to block the house sessions? Pushpa Kamal Dahal has already suggested the VP to resign from his position. Now, Maoists are calculating their strategy to link VP’s oath-taking crisis and constitution amendment with their claims for correcting the mistakes of the president and upholding the principles of civilian supremacy. C P Gajurel has already stated that his party is ready to allow house sessions if other political parties are ready to not just deal on the issue of VP but also the issue of the president.

Nepali politics is now going round and round in a circle. Tarai-Madhes parties need Maoist to open the house session to amend the constitution, Maoists need NC and UML to hold discussions on their commitment proposal while NC and UML, in turn, need Tarai-Madhes parties to stay on in power.

However, it must be the VP who is facing the most difficult time. He is certainly caught between the devil and the deep blue sea. If at the one end, he is confronted by calls for his resignation, at the other end, he is being suggested to respect the court, uphold the rule of law and retake the oath in Nepali. In between these two extremes, there are also suggestions not to take oath in Nepali, take oath in any other language except Nepali and then there are also suggestions to do nothing at all – neither to retake oath nor to resign from his position. He is to remain quiet, buy time to heal the wound and kill the verdict.

Girija Prasad Koirala, the shadowy supremo figure of Nepal’s politics, is also feeling the heat. Even before he had recovered from the Sujata episode, he had to cope with the language issue. Earlier, he suggested the political parties to abhor ethnic issues; now he is very much into the language issue. The president also cannot be spared from this episode. There cannot be an oath-taking without some one giving it. He could have stopped the problem then and there, had he just been assertive enough.

One thing that is hard to understand is how the amendment of the constitution is going to help end the crisis. Since the constitution cannot be amended with a retroactive effect, the Hindi oath-taking by the VP cannot be validated. Unless he decided to retake his oath in Nepali, the amendment of the constitution is not going to help. Why would he take an oath in Nepali after the constitution amendment when he has the freedom to take oath in Hindi? If he takes oath in the Hindi language again, what is the point in having two-oaths in Hindi language? Amending the constitution would be tantamount to directly challenging the apex court. Following the amendment, the conflict between the VP and the SC will become a conflict between the Constituent Assembly and the apex court.

It is difficult to understand why Nepal’s SC wanted to show its supremacy by interpreting oath-taking as a dual process of taking oath both verbally and in writing? What will happen, as also claimed by the VP, if some one with hearing or speaking problems or some one who cannot speak the Nepali language happened to be elected the president or VP of Nepal? Why is the court insisting on verbal oath-taking in Nepali language when, in fact, the VP has already admitted that with due respect to Nepali language he had signed his written oath in the Nepali language? Why did the court, which in its verdict quoted the case of Obama’s retaking of oath, forget that such retaking was done within 24 hours? Has the present crisis something to do with the biasness related to the VP’s own past career in the judiciary? Or, has it got to do with his recent complaints that he is not having enough business? The oath-taking episode must have given him and some other political legal pundits more than enough to do



Entry filed under: Uncategorized.

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