Prime Minister Deuba, who is also the president of the Nepali Congress, a party which claims to champion the cause of the rule of law, should lead the country by example. He should stop taking any mis-steps that seek to undermine the role of the judiciary.
The Supreme Court (SC) recently passed a much-awaited verdict on whether to go ahead with the proposed construction of Nijgadh International Airport in Bara district. The SC, in its full text of the verdict, has clearly directed the government authorities concerned to find alternatives to the proposed project site and fulfill set rules and procedures before carrying out the construction works of the airport. But, ironically, Prime Minister Sher Bahadur Deuba, whose government was formed as per the apex court’s mandamus, is openly flouting the order issued by the country’s apex court. This certainly does not augur well for the country’s democracy and is against the principle of separation of powers.
Prime Minister Deuba’s recent visit to Nijagadh along with CPN (Maoist Center) Chairman Pushpa Kamal Dahal, Janata Samajwadi Party Chairman Upendra Yadav and CPN (Unified Socialist) Chairman Madhav Kumar Nepal, in itself is controversial. The directive given by Prime Minister Deuba to the government officials concerned to expedite airport construction works openly violates the apex court’s order. It may be recalled that the top leaders of both ruling and opposition parties had criticized the apex court’s order which annulled all past decisions made by the government on airport construction in Nijgadh. Going by their reactions, it was clear that both the government and lawmakers across parties are bent on building the airport. As such, Finance Minister Janardan Sharma even allocated a budget, albeit small, for the construction of the airport.
The full text of the verdict has also highlighted the adverse impacts the construction of Nijgadh International Airport at the proposed site would leave on the environment and wild animals taking shelter there. But it appears that the government is hell-bent on constructing the airport at the same site. It is interesting to see Prime Minister Deuba’s desire to visit Nijgadh despite the apex court’s order and directing the officials concerned to expedite works related to airport construction. This is a total disrespect and disregard to the notion of rule of law from nobody else but the country’s prime minister. Speculations are rife that some groups with vested interests are eyeing to benefit disproportionately from the over 2.4 million trees that are likely to be cut down to build the airport. Prime Minister Deuba’s motive has come under question as he appears to be supporting this massive deforestation plan by going against the SC verdict.
It is true that the government has a decisive role in terms of making decisions on development projects. But what is also true is that the constitution has given the Supreme Court the final authority to interpret the constitution and legal provisions related to development projects. So, it is unfortunate to see the country’s top political leadership challenging the verdict passed by the top court based on the findings of environmental science. This is a brazen violation of the rule of law and the principle of separation of powers. The top court has ordered the government to first conduct a comprehensive Environmental Impact Assessment, highlighting the weaknesses seen in the previous EIA report. Prime Minister Deuba, who is also the president of the Nepali Congress, a party which claims to champion the cause of the rule of law, should lead the country by example. He should stop taking any mis-steps that seek to undermine the role of the judiciary.