Constituent Assembly (CA) Chairman and CPN-UML Vice-chairman Subash Chandra Nembang has passed away.
He was pronounced dead at the Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital (TUTH) at three Tuesday morning due to heart attack. He was 71 and is survived by two wives, two sons and two daughters.
Nembang was born on March 11, 1953 at Suntalabari, Ilam. His father Ram Bahadur Nembang was a district judge and he was raised at different places where his father was transferred. His accent as a result was different from typical Limbus despite being born to a Limbu family.
His father was posted as a judge at the Sindhuli District Court when he was around four to five, according to former attorney general and UML leader Agni Kharel who was Nembang’s student and later party colleague. He started his formal study in Sindhuli and continued it in Kapilvastu after his father was transferred there.
He did his ISc from the Trichandra Campus in Kathmandu after completing school in different districts of the country. He then returned to Ilam and got admitted for BA at the Mahendra Ratna Campus. It was around 1970 then and he got elected chairman of the Free Students’ Union at the college on the ticket of the All Nepal National Free Students Union (ANNFSU).
The Jhapa committee of the communist party started a violent rebellion at around that time and he was also influenced by the communist rebellion in adjoining Jhapa district. He became Ilam chief of ANNFSU in 1972.
He then returned to Kathmandu a couple of years later and enrolled for Diploma in Law at the Nepal Law Campus. He was arrested with lithograph machine and pamphlets calling for exposing the surrender of the Panchayat regime to India and was tried for treason in 1977 when Tulsi Giri was the prime minister (PM).
“He was jailed for almost two years after that. He used to recall inhuman torture by the police,” Kharel reminisces.
He was only released after the Panchayat regime declared referendum for democracy following the escalation of the ongoing student protests after brutal police suppression of the students who had gone to encircle the Pakistani Embassy in Kathmandu to protest the hanging of the then Pakistani PM Zulfikar Ali Bhutto on April 4, 1979.
He started to teach at the Nepal Law Campus after 1980. Nembang had topped in his batch as a student and was also an excellent teacher of criminal law. Kharel says he got admitted at the campus just as Nembang started teaching there.
Nembang started practicing at Nepal Law Firm run by Krishna Prasad Bhandari, Kusum Shrestha and others while he was teaching at the campus. He started Pioneer Law Firm at Bag Bazar along with Bharat Uprety, Baidya Nath Upadhyaya and others in 1985. Upadhyaya became Supreme Court (SC) justice in 2012 while Uprety, who has already passed away, was a temporary SC justice in 2010.
Nembang was unanimously elected general secretary of the Nepal Bar Association in 1986.
He also got a case registered against Keshar Bahadur Bista following the Dasharath Stadium disaster on March 12, 1988. A total of 93 spectators were killed following a stampede during a match between Janakpur Cigarette Factory and Bangladeshi side Muktijoddha Sangsad KC for the 1988 Tribhuvan Challenge Shield following thunderstorms.
Bista was minister for education and culture, which also oversaw sports, and resigned taking moral responsibility for the disaster. But Nembang lobbied for trial of Bista despite the differences in the NBA over the issue citing that Bista need not be tried after resignation. The trial did not occur despite registration of the case.
Kharel recalls raising the issue with Nembang after restoration of democracy in 1990 in presence of Hari Krishna Karki who has recently retired as chief justice of the SC. Nembang conceded that it was not right in principle to seek trial of Bista even after the latter’s resignation and pointed that he lobbied for the trial thinking as a means to attack the Panchayat regime.
The then UML general secretary Madan Bhandari had proposed Nembang to contest the first general election in 1991 after restoration of democracy from Ilam-2. But the then party secretary of Ilam Dev Raj Ghimire opposed Nembang’s candidacy. Ghimire, who is the House speaker now, has recently conceded with Setopati that he stopped Nembang’s candidacy.
Bhandari then proposed to make Nembang National Assembly member. He was twice elected to the National Assembly—first in 1991 and then three years later.
He was made minister of state for law in the minority government of UML led by Manmohan Adhikari following the mid-term election in 1994. He was initially reluctant to accept the post of state minister and accepted only after Adhikari promised to make him full minister later.
But Adhikari did not promote him soon and he was made full minister, according to Kharel, only after the then CJ Bishwa Nath Upadhyaya pointed during a meeting of the Judicial Council that only a full minister can attend the meeting.
Kharel reveals that Nembang had refused to become central member of UML as proposed by Bhandari during the fifth general convention in 1993 pointing that he could not become central member when he was a National Assembly member. He became central member only in the sixth general convention.
He was elected to the House of Representatives (HoR) from Ilam-2 in 1999. He was then elected chairman of the Public Accounts Committee. “He had initiated investigation in many scams including the Lauda scam. Many other scams also came to the fore on his initiation,” Kharel states.
The HoR was dissolved by the then king Gyanendra Shah on recommendation of the then PM Sher Bahadur Deuba in 2002. The HoR was reinstated after the Janaandolan II in 2006 and Nembang was made speaker of the reinstated House that also included Maoists who had just joined mainstream politics ending the armed insurgency.
He was also chairman of both the First and Second CAs. He was also involved in preparing the Interim Constitution that made Nepal a republic and secular state. He played a vital role in forging consensus among the political parties to prepare the new Constitution and chaired the CA meeting that promulgated the new Constitution on September 20, 2015.
Leaders across party lines believe he deserved to become president due to his stature and contributions, and he had also expressed aspirations to become the head of the state as per the Constitution that he helped promulgate.
CPN (Maoist Center) Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal had agreed to give the post of president to UML after he became PM with support of UML and other parties on December 25, 2022 ending the alliance with Nepali Congress (NC).
Many UML leaders confide that UML Chairman KP Sharma Oli refused to make Nembang the president initially and proposed names of some junior leaders. They state that Dahal would have agreed to make Nembang the president had Oli not proposed other UML leaders.
Dahal eventually ended the coalition with UML and allied with NC ending the chances of Nembang to become the third president of Nepal. Oli agreed to make Nembang the presidential candidate only after the coalition unraveled and Ram Chandra Paudel of NC was elected as the president as the common coalition candidate defeating Nembang.
Many believed that there was still time for him to become president in the future if UML were to get the post of president. And Nembang, who was healthy, himself may have harbored hopes believing he had time on his side. But time, alas, was not on his side.