Top Nepal judge becomes head of interim government

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 14 March, 2013, 11:58am
UPDATED : Thursday, 14 March, 2013, 3:00pm

Nepal’s chief judge became head of an interim government on Thursday that is charged with holding elections in three months to replace the parliament whose term expired almost a year ago.

Supreme Court Chief Justice Khilraj Regmi was sworn in by President Ram Baran Yadav, and his choices of former bureaucrats Madhav Ghimire as home minister and Hari Prasad Neupane as law minister took the oath of office with him.

Regmi will not head the court simultaneously but will resume his court duties after his tenure leading the government ends. The Supreme Court was supposed to hear a case against his appointment on Thursday, but whether it would be heard after his swearing-in was not immediately known.

The agreement signed late on Wednesday night among leaders of the four main political parties says Regmi will have an 11-member Cabinet and the interim government would hold elections by June 21.

The vote would choose a new Constituent Assembly to write a constitution and double as the country’s parliament. The assembly elected in May 2008 expired last year after failing to complete the charter because of political disagreements.

Regmi, 63, had been free of controversy in his two years as chief justice, but the Nepal Bar Association and some smaller political parties have criticised the arrangement as inappropriately mixing law and politics. Some opponents have threatened to organise street protests.

Since the last assembly tenure ended in May last year, Baburam Bhattarai, of the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist), has remained the head of caretaker administration.

Elections set for November last year were cancelled because of the political squabbling.

Maoist rebels in Nepal fought government troops between 1996 and 2006 until they gave up their armed revolt and joined a peace process that evolved after the Himalayan nation abolished its longstanding monarchy.

They emerged as the largest political party in the 2008 Constituent Assembly, but no party got a clear majority. Four different prime ministers assumed power in the next four years. Differences among the political parties have been blamed for the delays in the peace process and in the writing of a new constitution for Nepal.