Onus Is Now On UML
With the Supreme Court on Monday declining to issue an interim order to stay the tabling of the proposed constitution amendment bill, the onus now has fallen on the main opposition, the CPN-UML, to allow the Legislature-Parliament to perform its business. The tabling and the discussion over the bill is one of the main businesses of the Parliament, for which the ruling coalition has been working for the past one month. The main opposition has not allowed the ruling party to table the bill for discussion and then to vote on it, touting the proposed amendment in the constitution unconstitutional and anti-national.
The apex court in its keenly awaited verdict cited that the Parliament was the sole body to discuss, make and amend any law. The court further cited according to the principle of separation of powers and according to the norms and provisions of the constitution, the Parliament reserves the right to scrutinise and determine the fate of any bill. The court verdict has indeed put the UML, which has vowed to obstruct the proposed bill getting tabled in the House, in a quandary whether to allow the ruling coalition parties to table the amendment bill and participate in the discussion on it.
The Supreme Court verdict has buoyed the ruling coalition parties and the Madhesi Front. The supporters of these parties have now started citing that the court order has cleared the path for the government to table the much-contended bill that aims to separate the Terai areas from the hill districts in the Province Number-5. The UML party and few of its allies have been terming the very idea amending the bill that seeks to separate the hill and Terai districts is unconstitutional because, according to it, the constitution states that the rights to redrawing of the province boundary solely rests on the provincial parliament or assembly. However, the ruling coalition parties have cited another sub-clause of the same clause in the constitution that states that the federal parliament can discuss and vote for the redrawing of the boundaries of the provinces until the provincial assemblies or parliaments of the new federal set-up come into operation. Since the provincial assemblies have not yet taken shape, the federal parliament reserves the rights to discuss, vote on and determine the boundaries through due amendment in the constitution.
The court verdict has now allowed the ruling parties to move ahead with the amendment bill in the parliament. However, it is not clear whether the UML, after the court verdict, will give up its obstructive tactic which is in place for the past one month.
The main opposition has obstructed the Parliament in its attempt to block the ruling parties from tabling the bill, which has actually not allowed these parties to address some of the key demands of the agitating Madhesi front. The front has been asking the ruling coalition to form at least two provinces in the Terai that should not include any hill districts in those provinces. The amendment bill that tries to address the Madhesi demand is expected to help the creation and existence of the two provinces- the Province Number 2 and 5. This move will also meet a key demand of the Tharus, of having a province dominated by a Tharu populated cluster. The creation of the Province Number 5 without any hill district in it is therefore aimed to address the demands of the Madhesi Front as well as the Tharu parties.
On the other hand, the endorsement of the proposed statute amendment bill will help realise the complete implementation of the new constitution, which was endorsed by about 90 per cent of votes in the then Constituent Assembly. After the present bill gets endorsed by the two-third of the parliamentarians, the parties would then brace for holding elections in the country, for which the constitutional deadline is approaching quite fast. The three-tier elections would certainly help witness the formation of the local bodies in the different provinces, formation of the provincial assemblies and the formation of the two chambers of the legislature parliament. So far, the constitution has appeared to be a lame-duck document lacking teeth because it has not been implemented in full force.
The UML, which has traction towards the centre from the left and which frequently terms itself as a political force that believes in the democratic norms and principles, has indeed engaged in the most undemocratic practice of paralysing the sovereign Parliament through its obstructive tactics. The people's representatives in the parliament have all the rights to raise issues, hold discussions on any matter relating to nation and its wellbeing and then determine a law on the issue through majority of the vote. Because of the UML and its allies' disturbance, the discussion on the amendment bill along with other important issues such as the impeachment against the CIAA Chief have not yet moved forward.
If the UML believes in the democratic norms and principle, it should not only allow the bill to be tabled after the Supreme Court verdict, it should also take part in the discussion. And if it wants to fail the bill, it should work to mobilise all anti-amendment bill forces to vote against the bill. The rejection of the bill must be done through parliamentary and democratically accepted procedure.
It seems that the ruling parties have gained a strong backing for the current amendment bill after the Madhesi Front has accepted the provisions in the proposed bill. The ruling parties have high hopes that that RPP, which is currently an ally of the ruling coalition, would go in favour of the bill when they go for voting on the contentious bill. The support from the Madhesi parties as well as from RPP would help the ruling parties in gaining the required two-thirds vote on the bill. And, if that happens, then the UML will have nothing but to lick its wound.