KATHMANDU, May 23: Clearing the uncertainty over the fate of the Constituent Assembly after May 27, the major political parties Tuesday decided to extend the Constituent Assembly (CA) yet one more time by three months despite a six-month old Supreme Court ruling that had finally capped the CA term.
While seeking the extension, the parties have argued that they needed more time to resolve contentious issues and draft the main law of the land despite the "significant" progress they have made in resolving various issues and completing the peace process during the current term extension of the CA.
Later, a cabinet meeting endorsed the agreement of the parties and the government registered a bill in parliament in the evening to amend Article 64 of the Interim Constitution.
"Even if we resolve all the contentious issues by Wednesday, we will not be able to finalize the constitution writing in the remaining time," Deputy Prime Minister and Vice-chairman of the UCPN (Maoist) Narayan Kaji Shrestha told Republica when asked why the parties have sought yet another CA extension despite the apex court ruling.
The apex court in November had directed the government and the CA not to extend the CA term beyond May 27, ruling that there could not be any extention beyond May 27 and the CA would become dissolved automatically if it failed to draft the new constitution within the deadline.
"This is a setback to democracy, the rule of law and the supremacy of the constitution," said constitutional expert Bhimarjun Acharya, "It has weakened the sanctity and integrity of the judiciary."
However, the government has defended its decision to seek term extension. In the bill to seek the extension undersigned by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Law, Justice, Constituent Assembly and Federal Affairs Krishna Sitaula, the government has argued that the new extension is required to settle some issues of constitution making though the peace process has already been completed and many issues of constitution making have been duly resolved.
This is going to be the fifth extension of term for the CA that was supposed to have drafted the new constitution by May 28, 2010.
The parties agreed to extend the term as they have found it impossible to complete the constitution drafting process in the remaining five days before the current term expires.
"Technically speaking, drafting of the constitution in the remaining days is not possible even if the parties resolve all the issues," Nilambar Acharya, chairman of the CA´s Constitutional Committee, had told Republica before the parties decided to seek extension of CA term.
He was of the view that the first draft of the constitution should have been readied and given to lawmakers for their perusal by Tuesday if the constitution was to be promulgated by May 27.
Initially, the Nepali Congress and CPN-UML had objected to the proposal to extend the CA term yet again. While the NC maintained that such an extension would be a setback to democracy and rule of law, the CPN-UML had proposed that the president should be allowed to use constitutional provisions to clear any constitutional obstacle, according to Shrestha. But the Maoist party vehemently opposed the CPN-UML proposal, saying such a move would be risky.
"Though we have sought the three month extension, we have agreed to try to resolve the issues by May 27. We will not take three months to complete the constitution," claimed Shrestha.
PM calls on President
Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai called on President Ram Baran Yadav on Tuesday evening to brief him on the government´s decision to extend the term of the Constituent Assembly.
"The president urged the prime minister to move ahead in the spirit of the Interim Constitution and the Supreme Court verdict," said Rajendra Dahal, press advisor to president.