The year 2020 witnessed a number of political and constitutional issues challenging the rule of law and democratic principles in Nepal. The dissolution of the House of Representatives (HoR) and appointments in different constitutional bodies under an unconstitutional ordinance, bypassing the parliamentary hearing, have created fears that these constitutional and political upheavals could have an impact in the country for a long time.

This situation brief, prepared by Terai Human Rights Defenders Alliance analyses the implications for human rights and security in future as a result of the current political and constitutional developments.

Background: Dissolution of the House of Representatives and political protests

On 20 December 2020 President Bidya Devi Bhandari, on recommendation of Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli, dissolved the House of Representatives (HoR). It is believed that the Prime Minister took this drastic step due to the internal political wrangling within his own party, the Nepal Communist Party (NCP), which was formed on 17 May 2018, as a result of the unification between the two communist parties — the Communist Party of Nepal-United Marxist Leninist (CPN-UML) and Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Center). The dissolution of the HoR has been criticised by all stakeholders; political parties, civil society members and the general public except supporters of the KP Oli-led group of NCP and royalist force Rastriya Prajatantra Party.

Two days after the PM dissolved the HoR; the NCP suffered a vertical split with Pushpa Kamal Dahal “Prachanda” and Madhav Kumar Nepal-led NCP claiming to be the authentic party and PM Oli-led NCP also claiming to be the authentic party. The dispute of authenticity of the NCP as claimed by both groups is under consideration of the Election Commission.

The government has declared mid-term polls on April 30 and May 10, but observers suspects that the election might not take place on these dates. The Dahal/Nepal-led NCP, the Nepali Congress, Janata Samajwadi Party-Nepal and some other political parties and civil society groups have been protesting against the dissolution of the HoR in Kathmandu and in many districts, claiming that it is unconstitutional and the HoR should be restored.

Royalist forces are also protesting calling for the restoration of monarchy.  The Rastriya Prajatanta Party has claimed that it will support the agenda of Hindu state and constitutional monarchy.

Multiple writ petitions have been filed in the Supreme Court (SC),challenging the dissolution of the HoR. The petitioners have claimed that the Constitution of Nepal 2015 does not allow the Prime Minister who has full majority in the parliament to dissolve the HoR. PM Oli commanded a majority in the dissolved HoR. Due to ongoing protests in various districts by various political and civil society groups, confrontations between various groups and between protesters and security personnel are more likely to take place, and thus human rights violations may increase.

The PM Oli-led NCP has been organising different programs and rallies in different parts of the country claiming that his own party leaders created obstacles against the government and prevented it from functioning smoothly and therefore, the government was compelled to dissolve the HoR and seek fresh mandate.

The Nepali Congress, which is protesting against the dissolution of the HoR, has said that it will take part in the mid-term elections if the SC rules that the dissolution of the HoR is valid.

Seven Cabinet ministers close to Dahal and Nepal had resigned from the government and PM Oli again appointed eight new ministers which was again challenged in the SC arguing that PM Oli, who has been reduced to a caretaker status after the dissolution of the HoR does not have power to reshuffle the Cabinet.

The impact of dissolution of the HoR is not only limited to central politics, but six out of the seven provinces have been seeing instability with actions being taken by each other group of the NCP (the Prachanda/Madhav group vs Oli group). There have been no confidence motions registered in province no 1 and Bagmati province against Chief Minister of the province.

There are also rumours that the Prime Minister and President may go to the extent to dissolve the province assemblies[1]. Also, it is speculated by many observers that the Prime Minister may bring another ordinance related with splitting the political parties and may try to split some political parties to get support for his government. Rumours are also there that the President may declare a state of emergency.

Political analysts believe that Nepal might witness political instability yet again no matter what the apex court rules in the HoR dissolution case.

  1. Appointments for constitutional bodies and question of the constitutionality

On 3 February 2021, the government administered the oath of office and secrecy to 38 people who had been appointed to different constitutional bodies, including National Human Rights Commission, Election Commission and Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority, Madhesi Commission, Tharu Commission, and Muslim Commission, bypassing the constitutional requirement for Parliamentary hearings.

On 15 December 2020, PM KP Sharma Oli had amended the Constitutional Council (Functions, Powers and Procedure) Act[2] through an ordinance and then recommended 38 members for different constitutional positions. The amendment to the Constitutional Council Act was made on a pretext that Speaker, Agni Prasad Sapkota, who is also one of the members of the Constitutional Council, was absent from the Constitutional Council meeting called by the government on 15 December 2020.

The ordinance was issued within a few hours on the same day which allowed the Constitutional Council to hold the meeting in the presence of the majority of the members of the Constitutional Council whereas the previous Act had required at least five out of six members of the constitutional council to be present to hold a meeting. It is to be noted that as the deputy speaker of the HoR is not elected after the resignation of former Deputy Speaker Shivamaya Tumbahangphe, any member’s absence could have affected the quorum for the meeting of Constitutional Council.

When the ordinance was hugely criticised, PM K P Sharma Oli first told his party’s Standing Committee that the Constitutional Council meeting called on 15 December 2020 did not recommend any names to any constitutional bodies. However, after the HoR was dissolved, a letter was sent by the Constitutional Council to the Parliament Secretariat with dozens of names that were recommended for appointment in different constitutional bodies.

The government ignored the lawsuits filed in the SC against the ordinance on the basis of which these appointments were made. Not only that, the SC also did not issue any stay order in the cases filed against the ordinance and the appointments made in the constitutional bodies.

Civil society members and political analysts fear that since the government appointed 38 candidates in the constitutional bodies bypassing the Parliamentary hearing, these people could show their loyalty to the Prime Minister and they cannot work independently as the members of government watchdogs.

Civil society members and political parties also fear that the government may misuse the Election Commission to gain electoral advantage over the rival parties. Another fear is that the government which has appointed its favourites in the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority could use them to file corruption cases against political opponents with the objective of diminishing the opponents’ poll prospects and bolstering the ruling parties’ prospects.

Human Rights Defenders also fear that recent appointments made in constitutional commission, including the NHRC, bypassing the parliamentary hearing violated the Paris Principles and thus these bodies would not be able to work as independent constitutional watchdogs.

Interestingly, in the SC case filed on the constitutional bodies, the Chief Justice who leads the Constitutional Bench of the SC, as a member of Constitutional Council is also a respondent in the case. This is a clear case of conflict of interests in the case. The issuing of an ordinance that effectively allowed the Constitutional Council to make recommendations for the appointments with just two members of the Council has not only raised a question of the executive’s arbitrary action, but also affects the independence of the judiciary and it will have a big impact on the credibility of the NHRC and other NHRIs, like the Madhesi Commission and Muslim Commission.

  1. Restriction on Freedom of Expression and Shrinking Civic Space

The NCP government, which tried from its initial days in office to shrink civic space has recently announced that it would issue new directives to control online media and social networking sites. The government has not released the texts of the directives but media reports says that the content of the directives are harsher than the restrictive Information Technology Bill that the government had introduced in the Parliament two years ago but could not pass due to protests from civil society members and opposition parties. The government made this announcement after NCP (Nepal/Dahal group) youth leader Ramkumari Jhakri was arrested on February 11 on charges of making objectionable statements against President Bidya Devi Bhandari. This shows the government’s intent of discouraging people from making critical comments against the powerful people.

PM KP Sharma Oli had made contemptuous remarks on January 22 saying the petitioners who had challenged the HoR dissolution staged theatrics by taking a grandfather lawyer to plead in their favour.

Meanwhile, a lawyer tried to file a contempt of court case against the PM but the SC first refused to register his case. The apex court registered the contempt of court case later only when contempt of court cases was filed against four former Chief Justices- Kalyan Shrestha, Sushila Karki, Anup Raj Sharma and Min Bahadur Raymajhi. They had issued a statement on January 8 condemning the government’s move to dissolve the HoR. They are claiming they exercised their freedom of expression.


PM KP Sharma Oli’s move to dissolve the HoR cannot be seen as an isolated event. From the very beginning of his premiership, his government tried to consolidate power by bringing multiple government agencies under the PM’s office and weakening democratic institutions. To weaken the NHRC, his government brought a bill to amend the NHRC Act which was heavily criticised as it had tried to limit the powers, independence and autonomy of the NHRC. His government never prioritised the appointment of members and office bearers of other NHRIs – Muslim Commission, Madhesi Commission, Women Commission, Dalit Commission and more. He tried to recentralise the powers that were given to the provinces under the 2015 Constitution.

The government’s move to dissolve the HoR has been criticized by many civil society groups and a large percentage of people. Civil society groups, political groups and professional organizations have all said that this is a threat to democracy and an attack on constitutionalism.

While, the issues- a) dissolution of the HoR, and b) the ordinance related to the amendment of Constitutional Council Act and more are subjudice, these political upheavals have changed the priority of the government from COVID -19 control and vaccination to political adjustments and mid-term polls.

Meanwhile, the Accountability Watch Committee, issuing a press release on 14 February 2021 urged the national and international stakeholders, including the UN and diplomatic community, not to accept the appointments made to the constitutional bodies until the SC delivers its verdicts in the cases challenging the ordinance and appointments made in the constitutional bodies on the basis of the controversial ordinance.

As a political confrontation has already started, and it is likely to aggravate the situation in near future, it is important for civil society groups and the international community to be vigilant and support the human rights defenders to empower them to monitor the situation of human rights and rule of law.


[1]Article 232 (2) of the Constitution of Nepal stipulates that “if any such type of act as may seriously undermine the sovereignty, territorial integrity, nationality or independence of Nepal is carried out in any province, the President may, as required, warn such province council of ministers suspend or dissolve the province council of ministers and the province assembly for a period not exceeding six months.

[2]Article 284 of the Constitution of Nepal has a provision of Constitutional Council to recommend the appointment of Chief Justice of Supreme Court, chief of Constitutional agencies and members. It has one Chairperson, the Prime Minister and five members Chief Justice, Speaker of House of Representatives, Chairperson of National Assembly, Leader of Opposition Party in House of Representative and Deputy Speaker of House of Representative.