Lawyers representing petitioners who have challenged the dissolution of the House of Representatives pleaded before the constitutional bench that justices whose verdict nullified the unification of the CPN-UML and the CPN-Maoist Centre should recuse themselves from the case.

Chief Justice Cholendra Shumsher JB Rana, Justice Tej Bahadur KC, and Justice Bam Kumar Shrestha had heard the NCP case. A division bench of justices Shrestha and Kumar Regmi (who is not on the constitutional bench) had nullified the NCP unification and division bench of CJ Rana and Tej Bahadur KC rejected the petitioners' demand for review of the case.

Senior Advocate Shambhu Thapa said that the justices who had delivered the verdict in the NCP case and heard the review petition against the division bench's verdict should recuse themselves from the HoR dissolution case to avoid conflict of interest. He said the NCP nullification and HoR dissolution was correlated.

When CJ Rana told Thapa that he was presiding over the bench as per the constitutional provision, Thapa said if he wanted to recuse himself, he could go on leave and let the acting CJ preside over the case.

Advocate Govinda Bandi, who appeared before the constitutional bench on behalf of the petitioners challenging the dissolution of the House, pleaded that justices Bam Kumar Shrestha and Tej Bahadur KC, who had delivered the verdict in the case filed by Rishi Ram Kattel against the Nepal Communist Party (NCP), should recuse themselves from the HoR dissolution case. A division bench of Justice Shrestha and Kumar Regmi had on March 7 nullified the NCP unification.

NCP leaders had filed a review petition but a division bench of Chief Justice Cholendra Shumsher JB Rana and Tej Bahadur KC had decided that the case did not merit a review.

Bandi said there was a conflict of interest for justices KC and Shrestha whose verdict revived the CPN- UML and the CPN-MC as separate entities, leading to the current political crisis.

Bandi said they ordered NCP nullification, which petitioner Rishi Ram Kattel had not asked for. He, however, said that since the constitutional provision stipulated that constitutional bench should be led by the chief justice, CJ Rana could preside over the case. He said the SC verdict in the NCP case was like asking the parties to separate waters of the Bheri and Karnali river in Bardiya district, which is no way near their confluence.

Attorney General Ramesh Badal rebutted the petitioners' arguments, saying if justices KC and Shrestha had to recuse themselves from the case, then the same arguments would apply to all the justices of the Supreme Court who had issued orders against Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli. He said some of the lawyers were representing both the petitioners and defendants and that was a violation of code of conduct.

A version of this article appears in the print on May 31, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.