KATHMANDU, July 20: The Ministry of Home Affairs has prepared a new order of precedence in line with the new republican set-up, with the president at the top and second lieutenants at the bottom.
Currently under discussion at the political committee of the cabinet headed by the prime minister, the order of precedence -- a hierarchy indicating ceremonial positions with no legal standing -- has accorded a much lower rank to the army chief.
The proposed order of precedence, which will replace a 21-year-old hierarchy, has no place for the former king although he is a former head of state, according to a knowledgeable government source. It has reserved the sixth order of precedence for former presidents.
The ministry has prepared the new order of precedence as it had not been revised despite the political change in the country in 2006, with the country becoming republic in 2008, according to a senior ministry official. It has been prepared on the basis of the order of precedence in force in India and other countries, said the source on condition of anonymity.
The No. 2 spot in the order of the precedence has been proposed for the vice-president, followed by the prime minister in No. 3. In the previous order of precedence that had come into effect following the political change of 1990, the prime minister was in the No.10 position.
Similarly, the chief justice and the speaker of parliament have been placed in fourth and fifth positions respectively. Deputy prime ministers and former presidents occupy the sixth position.
There have been some differences over th proposal. While some members of the political committee and senior bureaucrats have argued that former presidents should be placed above deputy prime ministers, Deputy Prime Minister Bijay Kumar Gachchhadar has demanded that a deputy prime minister be ranked before a former president.
Likewise, the political committee is divided over the position to Supreme Court justices, according to a source in the committee. Though the apex court judges are at par with government ministers as per existing law relating to perks and facilities, they have been proposed for tenth position in the new hierarchy.
The members of the political committee also are not in agreement about proposed order of precedence for foreign ambassadors as these have been placed above government secretaries . They have been placed in 13th position, one rung higher than the position of the chief secretary, the attorney general, heads of constitutional bodies and the army chief.
Top bureaucrats argued at a recent meeting of the committee that foreign ambassadors to Nepal are at par with joint secretaries or under secretaries in their own countries and should not be placed higher than government secretary let alone giving them the same status as the chief secretary, said another source on condition of anonymity.
The proposed order of precedence also places the army chief just below the chief secretary. In the previous hierarchy, he occupied a much higher level, the source said.
"We have proposed a lower order of precedence for the army chief because the Indian army chief is below the cabinet secretary in that country," said the source when asked why the army chief´s positioning has been downgraded in the new order. "It is also to show civilian supremacy," he added.
Every country has its own order of precedence for formal state programs and functions, showing how the state should treat an individual holding a specific position on such occasions.