The ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP), which is on the verge of split due to intra-party feud between the factions led by Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli and his rivals Pushpa Kamal Dahal and Madhav Kumar Nepal, suffered a legal blow today as the Supreme Court ruled that the ruling party cannot have Nepal Communist Party (NCP) as its name, as it was a copy of Rishi Ram Kattel's Nepal Communist Party.

The SC invalidated the Election Commission's decision to allow CPN-UML and CPN-Maoist Centre to have Nepal Communist Party (NCP) as the name of the party they formed after their merger. The SC verdict effectively revives the UML and Maoist Centre.

The verdict also means that the NCP government, which was a majority government formed under Article 76 (1), has been reduced to a coalition government.

If the Dahal-led CPN-MC does not extend support to the Oli government then the process of forming a coalition government under Article 76 (2) should start immediately.

The verdict was delivered by a division bench of justices Bam Kumar Shrestha and Kumar Regmi in response to a case filed by the coordinator of Nepal Communist Party Rishi Ram Kattel.

The SC said that CPN-UML and CPN-MC will now be independent parties as in the past and if they wanted to merge, they could do so by fulfilling legal criteria.

The SC said Section 6 of the Political Party Act prohibited any party from having a name mimicking any other party's name.

Kattel had registered his party with the EC on 6 August 2017.

The EC had registered the new NCP (NCP) led by Oli and Dahal on 6 June 2018.

The Kattel-led party had submitted a petition at the EC disputing its decision of 26 October 2018 allowing the party led by Oli and Dahal to have NCP (NCP) as it name. The court observed that the name Nepal Communist Party (NCP) was not distinct from the Kattel-led NCP.

The court ruling comes at a time when the Dahal and Nepal-led faction of the NCP is threatening to register a no-trust motion against the PM.

Subas Chandra Nembang, who is close to Oli and was with the UML before its merger with CPN-MC, told THT that the NCP's Oli-led faction would honour the SC verdict as it did when the SC reinstated the HoR.

Radhe Shyam Adhikari, who represents the Nepali Congress in the National Assembly, said the SC decision had left vulnerable lawmakers who were with the UML or CPN-MC earlier but later shifted their loyalties to Dahal or Oli, respectively.

As per the law, dissidents can split their mother party only when they can muster 40 per cent support in both the Central Committee of the party and the Parliamentary Party.

The UML led by Oli had won 121 seats, whereas the CPN-MC led by Dahal had got 53 seats in the 275-member Lower House.

A version of this article appears in the print on March 08, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.