Experts see need to review pecking order

Ananta Raj Luitel

Kathmandu, February 27:

In the face of political development after the February 1 royal takeover, legal experts have stressed the need to review constitutional pecking order (Maryadakram) in the high-ranks.

“There is a need to review high ranking officials’ pecking order as per the changed scenario,” advocate Prakash Wosti told The Himalayan Times.

He said the problem arose after the formation of the government under the chairmanship of the King and appointment of vice-chairmen beyond the ways fixed by the 1990 Constitution.

A question emerges whether the Chief Justice can now take the 10th position in the erstwhile pecking order which was earlier occupied by the prime minister.

And which rung do the vice-chairmen fit into? Or, can they be considered as deputy prime ministers? The King had appointed Dr Tulsi Giri and Kritinidhi Bista the vice-chairmen on February 14. However, the government is yet to clarify their position in the formal hierarchy.

The 1990 Constitution does not explicitly provide any grounds for a vice-chairman in the cabinet. “Though an administrative aspect, hierarchy is closely tied up with code of conduct outlined for dignitaries while taking part in official ceremonies,” another lawyer added. The official order of succession of high rankers had come into effect on December 16, 1991 and was updated on September 7, 1992.

“Due to confusion over this protocol, vice-chairman Giri, who is also the Minister of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs, is yet to pay a courtesy call on Chief Justice Hari Prasad Sharma,” a high-ranking official at the Supreme Court said.

“Neither Giri has come here nor Chief Justice Sharma has gone to meet him,” he said. The minister is the ex-officio member of the Judicial Council and the Chief Justice is its ex-officio Chairman. According to the official, the Judicial Council could not hold a meeting after the King’s takeover due to that reason. Home Minister Dan Bahadur Shahi, who was also the Law Minister until Giri’s appointment, had immediately paid a courtesy call on the Chief Justice.

The existing pecking order lists 79 individuals below the King and the Deputy Consul General’s notch. While the royals, including the King and Queen, occupy the first nine ranks, the prime minister is placed at the 10th place.

The list outlines an 11th place for Chief Justice and 12th for Speaker of the House of Representatives, who is followed by the Upper House Chairman, Chairman of the Rajparishad Standing Committee, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister and Opposition Leader in the House of Representatives. Former prime ministers are placed in the 18th position.

Ex-Attorney General Mahadev Yadav recalled that such a pecking order was reviewed in 1960 after the late King Mahendra took over, sacking the government led by the late BP Koirala.