Perils of a country without a Parliament

Viewed from outside it might appear to some that Nepal is functioning relatively well without a parliament and a government with full executive powers for five months now. But appearances can be deceptive on a second glance or close inspection.

Absence of two very crucial organs of the state—the legislature and executive—can have damaging impact on a poor nation which is witnessing constitutional and political crisis following dissolution of the Constituent Assembly in May without a new constitution.

And to make matters worse the third important organ—the judiciary—which has played a crucial role in Nepal’s ongoing attempt to reinvent itself is also staring at a crisis due to the present impasse.

The country’s Supreme Court is now functioning with just five permanent and seven temporary judges. That’s nearly half the size of 15 permanent and 10 temporary judges as specified by constitutional provisions.

The situation could get worse in next three months with tenures of all temporary judges ending. And since appointments of SC judges and heads of other constitutional bodies have to be approved by parliament, it appears these posts will remain vacant for some more time.

There’s severe paucity of judges in lower and appellate courts as well. Reports say nearly 80% posts of judicial officers are lying vacant as a result of no fresh appointment in past three years. This is the biggest manpower crunch in Nepal’s judiciary till date.

Another important constitutional body, the Election Commission, is also facing a similar problem. Tenures of the chief election commissioner and two election commissioners will end within three months and new appointments can’t be made without a parliament.

As parties bicker and battle over when to hold fresh elections for a new parliament or Constituent Assembly, it seems the body responsible for holding free and fair polls would remain headless.

Other constitutional bodies where many top posts are vacant or will become vacant in coming months are the public service commission, office of the auditor general and commission for investigation into abuse of authority.

Besides manpower issues in constitutional bodies there’s another pressing problem the ruling Maoist-Madhesi coalition faces. It is regarding the country’s budget.

The one-third budget approved in July for four months is to expire in mid-November and if the government and opposition fail to agree on a new one soon, the country will experience more financial woes.

In the meantime ruling and opposition parties continue to engage in negotiations on ending the present deadlock with President Ram Baran Yadav playing the role of school principal urging unruly students to complete their homework soon.

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