Kathmandu, May 26
The Supreme Court today stayed the government’s decision to add 22 local levels in Tarai districts and upgrade some local levels.
On May 22, the government decided to add 22 local levels in the Tarai and upgrade 24 rural municipalities to municipalities and two sub-metropolitan cities — Biratnagar and Birgunj — to metropolitan cities to address one of the key demands of the agitating Madhesi forces.
A division bench of Justices Ishwar Prasad Khatiwada and Sapana Pradhan Malla stayed the government’s decision responding to a writ petition filed by advocate Dhana Bahadur Shrestha against the Office of Prime Minister and Council of Ministers and others.
The bench observed that Section 4 of the Local Levels Election Act did not allow the government to make changes in the number and boundaries of local levels after announcing dates for elections.
The SC added that although the government had the power to change the number of wards and their boundaries, the government’s proposal had to be endorsed by two-third majority of the assemblies of rural municipalities and municipalities concerned as provisioned in Section 5 of Determination of Number and Boundaries of Wards in Rural Municipalities and Municipalities Act.
The SC added that as per Section 5 (5) of the same act, such changes should be made one year before the local polls.
“The rule of law means political acts must be governed by the constitution and laws. Any act that is not supported by provisions of the constitution and laws cannot be deemed valid,” the bench observed.
It added that the government’s May 12 decision to form a panel under Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Federal Affairs and Local Development Bijaya Kumar Gachhadar to make changes in the number and boundaries of local levels was illegal.
The apex court asked the government not to implement the May 12 decision till a final verdict in the case.
The SC, however, observed that there was no reason for the court to stay the government’s decision to provide relief to victims of Tikapur violence.
Minister of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs Ajaya Shankar Nayak told The Himalayan Times that the government would abide by the SC’s decision and hold second phase of local polls in 461 local levels on June 14.
He added that the government would try to address Madhesis’ concerns after the second phase of local polls. Out of 744 local polls, the government held polls in 283 local levels on May 14.
A version of this article appears in print on May 27, 2017 of The Himalayan Times.