Supreme Court verdict on PLA

Kathmandu, March 9:

Following the Supreme Court’s stay order on People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) fresh hiring bid, a constitutional question has popped up: Does the PLA hold equal status with the Nepali Army?

Talking to this daily today, former attorney general Yagya Murti Banjade said the constitution and existing laws did not recognise them as equal armies.

“Such a writ jurisdiction cannot be attracted in case of non-constitutional bodies like the PLA,” Banjade said, explaining, “The apex court can’t issue verdicts in relation with any non-public institution. Such a principle of precedent has already been established in many cases related with Nepal Bar Association.”

The stay order appears an unique one as this has established a new principle that the apex court can issue orders to non-government organisations, too.

“This apex court intervention has given equal status to the Maoists combatants though the constitution and the law do not recognise them equally,” constitutional lawyer Chandra Kanta Gyawali argued, claiming, “The PLA combatants have been recognised as Maoist combatants, giving them the status of political party members,” he claimed.

A single bench of Justice Damodar Prasad Sharma yesterday directed the government and the Army Integration Special Committee (AISC) to stop the recruitment process in the PLA.

The Article 144 of the Interim Constitution has recognised the Nepali Army as the national army, while the Article 146 has recognised the PLA combatants until the AISC’s decision on their fate, but no duty has been assigned to them.

“The Constitution and the Army Act are clear that the two armies do not have equal status,” Gyawali said, adding, “The Nepal Army is the national force but the PLA is nothing but a sister organisation of a political party. They would be treated accordingly after their integration into the army or police.” He said the apex court order had to be respected but maintained that the apex court had entered into a political issue.

However, NBA general secretary Raman Kumar Shrestha said, “The PLA deserved the stay order even though it is not a statutory body. The Constitution has recognised them as combatants subject to integration and rehabilitation into the army and the society.”

He also said the PLA held equal status with the Nepali Army after the Interim Constitution was promulgated and the Comprehensive Peace Accord (CPA) was signed.