Nepal's Supreme Court on Sunday quashed the unification of the erstwhile Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist–Leninist) led by Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli and the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist Center) led by Pushpa Kamal Dahal ‘Prachanda’, in a huge blow to the two warring leaders amidst a tussle for power.
The CPN-UML and CPN (Maoist Centre) merged in May 2018 to form a unified Nepal Communist Party following victory of their alliance in the 2017 general elections.
On Sunday, an apex court bench of justices Kumar Regmi and Bam Kumar Shrestha issued the verdict giving authenticity of the Nepal Communist Party (NCP) to Rishiram Kattel, who had registered the party at the Election Commission (EC) in his name prior to the formation of Nepal Communist Party (NCP) led by Oli and Prachanda, The Kathmandu Post newspaper reported.
Kattel had challenged the Election Commission's decision to register Nepal Communist Party (NCP) under Oli and Prachanda in May 2018.
The bench said that a new party cannot be registered with the Election Commission when it already has a party registered with a similar name.
"The Supreme Court has passed a verdict in our favour," Kattel’s lawyer Dandapani Poudel was quoted as saying by the paper.
"We have won the case.
The court said then CPN-UML and then CPN (Maoist Centre) would return to the pre-merger stage and if they were to merge, they should apply at the Election Commission as per the Political Parties Act, according to the paper.
With the apex court’s verdict, the NCP’s 174 seats in parliament will now be divided based on the number of seats won by the UML and Maoist Center prior to their merger into the NCP after the parliamentary election in 2017.
The two parties had forged an electoral alliance with an agreement to unify the two parties after the election.
In the 2017 elections, the UML had won 121 seats and the Maoist Centre 53.
Oli, known for his pro-China leanings, in a surprise move dissolved Parliament in December last year, amidst a tussle for power with Prachanda.
The ruling NCP split over Oli’s move to dissolve the 275-member House.
Both Oli and the rival group claim to control the Nepal Communist Party and the issue is being disputed at the Election Commission.
Advocate Poudel had filed a writ petition at the Supreme Court on behalf of Kattel on December 7, 2018, demanding that the Nepal Communist Party (NCP) led by Oli and Prachanda be scrapped as its registration violated Clause 6(e) of the Political Parties Act-2017.
The joint bench has given the opportunity to 69-year-old Oli and 66-year-old Prachanda to file an application again to the Election Commission (EC) proposing a different name for their party if they still want to save the party unity.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Oli has called a meeting of his party's parliamentary party within hours of the apex court's verdict.