KATHMANDU, May 26: Ending a row over Constituent Assembly (CA) term extension, the Supreme Court (SC) on Wednesday said that the CA term can be extended only for six months. The apex court has cautioned parliament not to extend the term for an indefinite timeframe.
Responding to a writ petition filed by Bharat Jangam, a full bench comprising Chief Justice Khil Raj Regmee and Justices Damodar Prasad Sharma, Ram Kumar Prasad Shah, Kalyan Shrestha and Tahir Ali Ansari said the CA term cannot be extended for more than six months even in normal circumstances.
"The term of the CA can be extended for six months as per Article 64 of the interim constitution if a state of emergency is declared in the country," reads the verdict, adding, "If there is no state of emergency and if the CA feels an urgency to extend its term on the basis of the doctrine of necessity, the term can be extended but not for more than six months."
The bench said that it would be considered a breach of constitutional provisions if any attempt is made by the CA to extend its term for more than six months or extend it time and again.
"If the CA attempts to prolong its term unnecessarily or indefinitely, that will be against the spirit of the interim constitution and the mandate and desire expressed by the sovereign people through voting" states the verdict.
The full bench also ended the controversy raised by the SC´s previous verdict on CA term extension. "The bench hereby nullifies the controversies and interpretations of a previous verdict that the CA term can be extended for an indefinite timeframe," states the verdict.
The apex court has also urged the CA to take special initiatives to accomplish the principal task of drafting the new constitution on time.
"Drafting a new constitution is the CA´s principal task," reads the verdict, adding, "The bench hereby urges the CA to take special initiative to accomplish the constitution writing on time as per the spirit of the interim constitution and the aspiration of the people."
The apex court has also cautioned the CA about what the SC could do if the term is extended time and again.
"The apex court will always take the issue of CA term extension as a matter for judicial review," the verdict states.
Admitting that the task of writing a constitution is not easy, the apex court said, "If the CA feels urgency in extending the CA term, it can do so only as per provisions incorporated in Article 64 of the interim constitution on the basis of the doctrine of necessity," states the verdict.
Writ petitioner Jangam had claimed in his petition that there was a procedural flaw in last year´s CA term extension. He had demanded nullification of the CA´s decision to extend its term for one year, claiming that it was unconstitutional. It was the Legislature-Parliament that should have extended the CA term. The notice published in the Gazette says it is the CA that extended the term. Jangam had challenged that procedural flaw.
The SC quashed Jangam´s writ petition, saying it has already lost its relevance. The SC accepted that all the procedures required to amend the constitution were not followed while the CA term was extended last year, but deemed it meaningless to invalid the extension with only three days of the extended term remaining.
"There is no meaning to nullify last year´s decision to extend the CA term at present as the writ petition has already lost its relevance. The bench, however, urges the CA not to repeat the same mistake in future."