The people have already elected 165 House of Representatives (HoR) members directly while the process of electing another 110 members through the Proportional Representation (PR) electoral system is in the final stage. A total of 275 elected lawmakers will enter the HoR in a few weeks to formulate laws for the country through periodic election.
The main tenet of democracy is the people legislating for themselves exercising that sovereign right through their representatives.
The elected people's representatives form the government to work for the people and formulate laws to bind that government and the general public. Nobody is above those laws and there is rule of law in the country. The biggest importance and spirit of modern democracy is vested in that.
The gerontocratic leaders of old parties with longevity like that of the sun and the moon who cannot see anything but power and do not care about any norms and limits of democracy have been repeatedly attacking this spirit. This has happened once again.
But the issue is graver than those of yesterday because a new government is going to be formed after the previous mandate expired. New lawmakers have been elected as people's representatives. The government formed as per the previous mandate and already past expiry date has amended an important criminal law through an ordinance with utter disregard for them. The law of the land does not allow the government to withdraw cases of grave crimes sub judice in the court. The court has repeatedly cautioned the government through its orders and verdicts in that regard.
The place to discuss and debate about the matter if someone in special circumstances is hard done by the prevailing laws and court precedents, and to amend them is the House elected by the people. The ordinance brought by the government now, therefore, is not right in the crucible of time, people's mandate, Constitution, laws or political morality. The government should, therefore, take back this ordinance.
There are many dimensions to the issue of 'bringing this ordinance for justice to' Resham Chaudhary, who has been jailed for almost five years, and other political rebels.
First things first, this ordinance has not been brought to ensure justice for Chaudhary. The government could have taken the bill related to the issue to the previous HoR if it genuinely felt that Chaudhary suffered injustice. This government has been in power for around one and a half years and had a clear majority in the previous House. The current ordinance has come as a bargaining tool for power. It has been brought to solicit Chaudhary's support in mustering a majority for the ruling coalition in the newly elected House. This quid pro quo will further complicate the issue of 'injustice' to Chaudhary, and will condemn him to further injustice.
Chaudhary is facing a court case as one of the main accused of the Tikapur incident in which eight police personnel including an SSP of Nepal Police and a toddler were lynched on August 24, 2015. He has been claiming that he was outside Tikapur on that day and he did not have anything to do with the attack on the police.
The then government had formed a judicial commission under former Supreme Court (SC) justice Girish Chandra Lal to find facts about the incident after thorough investigation. And that commission submitted its report almost five years back. The government has changed many times in the intervening period but the government has yet to make that report public.
Chaudhary's supporters claim that the report does not implicate Chaudhary in the Tikapur incident as the court case filed by the government contends, and many feel that he has been unjustly implicated and jailed. The government has supported these claims by not making the report public.
A large chunk of the Tharu community genuinely feels that Chaudhary is suffering injustice due to the shady character of the major political parties that say one thing when they are in power and quite another while in the opposition. This grievance of the Tharu community has manifested in this election. Nagarik Unmukti Party, registered under the leadership of Chaudhary's wife Ranjeeta Shrestha, has won three HoR seats under the First-Past-The-Post (FPTP) electoral system while the party's Lalbir Chaudhary has been elected as an independent candidate from Bardiya-2 after filing rebel candidacy. The party has won 12 seats in the provincial assembly and has secured almost 300,000 votes in the PR electoral system for HoR. This shows the sympathy of the Tharu community toward Resham Chaudhary and the degree of their displeasure toward the case filed against him.
The newly elected House cannot ignore the issue. It is the responsibility of the new House to study the Lal report, explore the additional aspects of the Tikapur incident, and prepare legal grounds and way toward justice for him if it concludes that he indeed has suffered injustice.
The new House can grant justice to Chaudhary in the true sense only by amending the law completing due procedures if he has suffered injustice, and acquit him of the allegations slapped against him. He will be deemed offender by a large chunk of the people if he is released through the ordinance as part of the quid pro quo for the government. That will be a bigger injustice to him. We, therefore, also urge him to not stress on the horse trading for government.
As far as the leaders of the ruling parties are concerned, they have been found repeatedly wanting on the issue of democratic processes and rule of law. Every leader of big parties has made a mockery of rule of law and abused the laws for vested interests while in the government. Ordinance, which is brought at the time of emergency or absence of House for essential works that must be done, has been turned into a tool of rulers for their vested interests.
There are rising aspirations of the people, especially the younger generation, that there is exercise of advanced democracy, rule of law, and democracy does not turn into an armor to cover up the caprices of those in power. The new generation has delivered that very message by establishing new parties in the recent HoR election.
The archaic leaders of the old parties have been repeatedly proving how alienated they are from these aspirations by bringing such ordinances. They will perhaps continue that until they are displaced.