The Supreme Court on Tuesday issued a show cause notice to the government and the main opposition leader to furnish reasons for not holding election for local bodies for inordinately long period.
Responding to a writ petition jointly filed by advocates Chandra Kanta Gyawali, Parashuram Upadhyay, Bimal Gyawali, Leeladhar Upadhyaya and Bijay Gautam, a single bench of Acting Chief Justice Sushila Karki asked the defendants, including the prime minister and the main opposition leader, to furnish reasons within 15 days for not holding local election.
The court has also decided to give priority to the petition for hearings terming it a serious constitutional matter.
Earlier, a division bench of the then chief justice Kalyan Shrestha and justice Devendra Gopal Shrestha on November 24, 2015 had issued a directive to hold local election soon. Likewise, the division bench of the then chief justice Khilaraj Regmi and justice Prakash Wasti on November 8, 2013 and another division bench of the then justices Balaram KC and Bharat Raj Upreti in 2010 had issued similar directives.
Public calls for local election
A section of civil society has always been urging the government and the political parties to hold local election for effective delivery of services at the local levels as well as for reducing the misuse of development funds at the local bodies.
On Tuesday, a group of former people's representatives at local bodies issuing a joint statement urged the political parties to develop consensus for holding local elections in Mangshir (November-December).
The former representatives associated with the National Association of VDCs in Nepal (NAVIN), Municipalities Association of Nepal (MuAN) and Association of District Development Committees of Nepal (ADDCN) on Tuesday urged the government to create a favorable environment for holding local election.
The joint press release issued by NAVIN General Secretary Bhim Dhungana, ADDCN Chairman Krishna Prasad Jaisi and MuAN Chairman Dormani Paudel has urged the political parties to realize that local election will help in implementing the new constitution and federalism.
Political parties sharply divided
The local bodies have remained without people's representatives for 14 years. However, political parties are still deeply divided over holding local election.
The government, in its Policy and Program, recently announced that local election will be held by Mangsir (November-December) under the transitional provisions.
The announcement infuriated several political parties, which are protesting against the new constitution. "Under federalism, it is the right of the provinces to hold local election. The announcement made it clear that the government has been trying to delay and derail the course of implementing federalism," said Upendra Yadav, the chairman of the Federal Socialist Forum Nepal.
The main opposition, Nepali Congress, formally brought a proposal to amend the government Policy and Program in parliament arguing that the election for local bodies on the basis of existing constituencies would have no significance because a commission formed to determine numbers and boundaries of local bodies is set to determine new constituencies within a year.
"The election for local bodies should be held on the basis of political consensus only after promulgating necessary laws and implementing the recommendations of the commission formed to restructure local bodies," said NC leader Ramesh Lekhak.
On the other hand, the government has been arguing that the transitional provisions of the constitution have given the mandate to hold local elections and no constitutional question exists on holding the local election.
"Holding elections for local bodies is current need. As the task of restructuring the local bodies will take some time, we should not delay to fill the vacuum created by the absence of people's representatives," Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli recently said in parliament.
EC needs 120 days for preparations
Though the government unveiled its Policy and Program and announced its plan to hold local polls, it has yet to consult the Election Commission for fixing the election date.
However, the officials at the commission said that they can hold the election if the government provides at least 120 days to them for making necessary preparations. "We need at least four months to make preparations for the election. In this regard the Election Commission can hold local election in Mangsir but it would be better if the government declared election date by June 15 since we have rainy and festive seasons ahead," said Basudev Guragain, the spokesperson at the Election Commission.
Local polls a tortuous path
The government has claimed that the election would help ensure democratic exercise at the local level, rule of law and leadership of people's representatives in local development, ending the void of people's representatives at local bodies.
Despite the dire need for elected people's representatives in the local bodies, holding local election in near future is difficult task for the government.
While the main opposition, Nepali Congress, has been raising constitutional issues, the agitating Madhes-based parties have publicly spoken that they will disrupt the election if government moves ahead ignoring their agendas.
Meanwhile, the government has to pass a bill to amend the Local Body Election Procedure Act and Local Self-Governance Act from parliament before announcing the election date. Though the government is prepared to table the bill, it is unlikely to get through parliament given the deep differences within political parties.
Likewise, giving full shape to the Election Commission is still due and it will engage political parties for some times on it.