Row over suspension provision for arrested MPs stalls House

Published On: May 17, 2018 07:19 AM NPT By: Republica  | @RepublicaNepal

KATHMANDU, May 17: Plans to endorse new House regulations through the parliament meeting on Wednesday have been deferred due to a serious dispute between the ruling CPN-UML and the main opposition Nepali Congress as well as other political parties over a provision about suspending MPs accused of a criminal offense that can carry a jail sentence of three years or more. 

UML and two fringe parties are for including a provision that states that a lawmaker shall be suspended immediately after he/she is arrested on a serious criminal charge, while NC and two Madhes-based  parties are against the idea. They are for suspending such lawmakers only after a final court verdict. The ruling CPN (Maoist Center) is silent on the issue. 

Speaker Krishna Bahadur Mahara deferred the House meeting for Friday after  NC leaders threatened to obstruct House proceedings if the government tabled the proposal for endorsement. Failing to forge a consensus on the matter, the UML had asked the speaker to put it to a vote. 
Maoist leaders,  however, said they would vote for the proposal if  voting takes place.
Rastriya Janamorcha (RJM) and Nepal  Workers  Peasants Party (NWPP) have backed the UML proposal.

 NC and the Madhes-based parties Rastriya Janata Party Nepal (RJPN) and Federal Socialist Forum Nepal (FSFN) have demanded that lawmakers should be suspended only after a final court verdict  instead of upon their arrest. The three parties have also demanded  reduction in  the number of lower house committees to seven from the 10 proposed in the regulations. 

A meeting of the lower house had planned to endorse its regulations on Wednesday through  voting after both the ruling and opposition parties stuck to their stances. 

“The draft of the regulations was endorsed  in consensus by the drafting committee. We said that if the ruling party lawmakers try to go for a majority vote after adding their amendments we will resort to House obstruction,” said NC leader Min Bahadur Biswakarma. 

Earlier, the regulations drafting committee had submitted  a middle way solution. The draft  proposed that  MPs will become ineligible for state facilities during their stay in custody and will be suspended after the final court verdict. 

According to the provision included in the draft, the accused lawmaker wouldn’t be suspended despite being deprived of the perks and facilities. 

The committee members were widely criticized for including such a provision.
However, the row over the regulations arose again after lawmakers from UML, RJM and NWPP registered amendments to the draft, demanding that lawmakers be suspended from their post right from the date of their arrest. 

“We decided to postpone the House business until the next  meeting in order to consult  top party leaders,” said Speaker Krishna Bahadur Mahara. 

After postponing the House for Friday, Mahara convened a meeting of key leaders from  five political parties to seek consensus. But that meeting  failed to yield any positive result. 

“All parties have a common understanding that lawmakers will be suspended  only if they are jailed following a final court verdict, but the parties have differing views,” said UML leader Bhanu Bhakta Dhakal.  “We are still trying to forge a consensus.” 

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