KATHMANDU, Sept 18: Nepal is marking the first anniversary of the promulgation of its new Constitution – an epoch-making document made possible through an arduous and rigorous political-constitutional process – on September 19.
A year of crucial time has elapsed since the promulgation of the national charter with no substantive result towards building concrete political consensus for its wider acceptance and implementation. Two governments have so far changed within a span of less than a year with the incumbent Prime Minister being the third following the proclamation of the constitution, which very vividly indicates the political hiccups that is being faced at this crucial juncture of the post-promulgation period.
Nevertheless, some efforts being made of late in regard to the constitution implementation have at least shown some light at the end of the tunnel. In this light, the government's recent decision to designate seven high courts, one in each federal province, in line with the constitutional provision is at least something to cheer about. The landmark move kick starts full implementation of the new charter, which has been so far been sluggish owing to various reasons.
Setting up of the high courts, as provided in the new constitution replacing the erstwhile appellate courts, was possible after the Legislature-Parliament unanimously passed the judicial administration and service related bills. In line with the parliamentary endorsement, the Council of Ministers (Cabinet) on 14 September 2016 took the decision to locate high courts and extended benches in Biratnagar, Janakpur, Patan, Pokhara, Tulsipur, Birendranagar and Dipayal of the respective seven provinces. The designation of high courts is, so far, one of the most important decisions taken to give a feeling of the implementation of federalism in the country.
Making public the government decision, Minister for Information and Communications Surendra Bahadur Karki said, “The government decision to designate the high Courts in line with federal structures indicates that the country is moving into a federal system”.
In addition, the prudent and proactive role of judiciary is also equally important to enable environment for elections in the country. The Supreme Court on 8 September had ordered the government to furnish information in writing on the ongoing preparations for local, provincial and federal elections in an emphatic manner. The move presumably will prod the government to expedite its preparations for election in a way to comply with the constitution. Delay in announcing election dates could ultimately lead to the government missing the deadline of electing House of Representatives by January 21, 2018 as envisaged by the transitional provision of the constitution. In this context, the judiciary is taking its responsibility from its end to bring the constitution into practice.
Earlier, the government had unveiled the national budget for the fiscal year 2016-17 in the statutory date of 15th Jestha (May 28). This was the first budget after the promulgation of the new constitution that has specified the date for presenting the executive budget in the parliament – an important provision for fiscal stability in the country. Though the subsidiary bills of the national budget are yet to be endorsed from the parliament, the practice of unveiling budget in the parliament in the constitutionally stated date signals the enforcement of a very encouraging provision of the hard-earned statute.
The Legislature-Parliament, which has the key role to prepare and amend the laws for the implementation of the constitution, is also expediting its preparatory works. According to the Ministry of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs, the Legislature-Parliament has so far endorsed the bill to amend 193 Nepal Acts in consistent with the constitution on 25 February 2016. It may be noted that the first amendment to the constitution was also carried out by the Parliament on 28 February to address the demands of agitating political parties.
Importantly, the Parliament has identified the need to formulate 110 new federal laws, 22 provincial laws and six local laws to implement the constitution and has taken ahead the necessary process to that end.
Likewise, the Local Body Restructuring Commission which was formed by the government as per the constitutional provision to determine the number and borders of Village and Municipal Councils within six months of the promulgation of the constitution has also completed its first round of its task. However, the political parties have yet to forge consensus to facilitate the task of the commission considering its importance to create environment for local elections. Hopefully, it will be accomplished once the government and major political parties give up their rigid stances keeping in mind the gravity of the issue at stake.
In order to hold the three levels of elections, the role of Election Commission Nepal is equally important. There are only 16 months to go to meet the constitutional deadline of January 21, 2018 to hold all levels of elections. Lack of political consensus has marred the issue. The Election Commission (EC) has reiterated that it has carried out necessary preparation to hold the elections provided the election related laws are endorsed from the parliament at the earliest possible time. All in all, the Commission has also kept its alertness to shoulder up the responsibility which in itself is a key to make the constitution functional,
besides several positive happenings, there are myriad of nuts to crack requiring herculean efforts. Among the key remaining tasks include determining delineation of provincial and local boundary and electoral constituencies, formation of new constitutional bodies, designating provincial government capitals and heads, framing news laws at different levels and holding election of all three tiers.
No doubt the road ahead is bumpy. Now is the time to put all out efforts for consensus-making and trust-building among the political parties and handle the awkward journey impetuously. Institutionalizing the achievements made so far in regard to constitution implementation and putting efforts to make the constitution a widely-accepted document should be given a high premium. The next amendment to the constitution should be done carefully to address genuine demands of the dissenting sections and concentrate efforts for the effective and smooth implementation of the constitution. There lies the future of Nepal and Nepali people as obstinacy would take the country nowhere. RSS