Constitution Taking Effect, Gradually
Having faced an abundance of jolts just before and after its promulgation, the constitution of the federal democratic Nepal appears to have been moving gradually towards its full implementation. The nation has just completed the three-phases of local elections in all its local bodies and is gearing for holding two other major elections- the polls for federal parliament and the provincial assemblies. The local elections took the nation towards the first step towards the full implementation of the charter while two remaining elections, which will be held soon, are expected to complete the charter’s implementation.
The three-tier elections, which would empower the people from the grassroots level by providing them with the representation in local to central bodies of governance, are the key ingredients of the constitution of the country that has turned the nation into a new federal democratic country with its promulgation some two years ago. Another major aspect of the present constitution is it has paved the way for more inclusion. The charter has sought to empower the people representing various ethnic and marginalised groups, different genders, regional groups and others through their representation in the legislative bodies, local and provincial bodies and other government instiutions thus fulfilling the long held urge for including all those who lacked their voice and representation earlier.
While talking about the success of the present charter, one cannot forget the “labour pain” the constitution had passed through. After the formation of the Constituent Assembly (CA), which came into being on the strength of the successful People’s Movement II of 2006, the members of the then CA and political parties had disputed over the several contents of the proposed constitution, from redrawing of the new provinces and naming them on the ethnic lines, to the system of governance. After several rounds of painstaking discussions and dialogues and then holding second CA elections, sanity had prevailed over the parties not to quarrel further over the nomenclature of the provinces and to give continuity to present form of the Westminster style government. They also agreed to form special commissions to delineate the provinces and local bodies. The delineation of the new provinces and local bodies had been a major bone of contention in the new charter.
Despite “resolving” these issues, the three major parties had to stave off several other difficulties while bringing forth the new constitution. The contents of the new charter had dismayed some ethnic and regional parties. Most importantly, our southern neighbour had expressed its ‘remarkable’ level of dissatisfaction on the contents and had even sought to halt the promulgation by piling pressures on the key political parties and leaders and chiefs of the constitutional bodies.
India, which has always cast a long shadow on Nepali politics or other issues, was angry that the three major parties promulgated the constitution without addressing the “Madhesi concerns”. Some two days before the scheduled launch of the Nepali charter, the Narendra Modi government had sent its foreign secretary to pressurise on the parties to put off the promulgation. However, the major parties- the Nepali Congress, CPN-UML and the Maoist Centre, had shown enough grit and gumption to send back the Indian foreign secretary empty handed.
The leaders had famously told the Indian foreign secretary that he had arrived in Nepal too late with his government’s message to halt the statute promulgation as the nation could not wait more to promulgate the new charter, endorsed by about 90 per cent of members of the then 601-member Constituent Assembly. India, livid over the denial of its offer, created another pressures on Nepal by imposing a crippling economic blockade which had sent the Nepali economy haywire. After facing widespread criticism, the Indian government was “forced” to lift the blockade.
The BJP-led Indian government still sticks to its old stance citing that the country must include “demands, voices and concerns of all, including the communities of southern plains and ethnic groups” in its charter, meaning that it must address the several issues of the Madhesh, which India believes the charters had left behind.
The political parties, especially the three major parties, and their parliamentarians must be given credit for promulgating the statute despite facing pressures and threats from different quarters. Everyone in the country now believes that had these parties and leaders aborted the promulgation, the new constitution would never have seen the light of day.
There are many in the countries and outside that criticise the statue for failing to address the urges and grudges of certain section of the nation. These critics should not forget the fact a constitution is a “living document” and can have many amendments as per the requirements of changing times and altering demands of the constituencies and the citizens.
The present coalition government headed by Nepali Congress and Maoist Centre had even put forward the second amendment bill of the constitution as per the demand of the Madhesi parties. The amendment had sought to endorse the Madhesi demands on the issues of citizenship, language, representation in the upper house, redrawing of provinces and few others. However, it failed to get the required two-thirds vote in the parliament. The Madhesi parties and their supporters can push through the amendment in future if and when they think that they have enough votes to clinch the endorsement for the amendment. To get the enough representation, the Madhesi parties seeking the amendment must work hard to win the support and votes of their constituencies to increase the number of their representation in the parliament.
Despite new constitution’s advantages, it has yet to achieve the major goal of taking sound effect. Constitution experts in the nation believe that any constitution will take greater effect if it is “supported” by several laws and bylaws or rules and regulations. To be effective, our constitution at present requires the enactment of around 125 rules and regulations. These rules must be enacted
The full and effective implementation of the constitution will certainly help end the staggering political transition by bringing stability in the nation, which in turn will help all state organs- the executive, the parliament and judiciary of the federal Nepal to function effectively and more independently. Though there are many challenges, the constitution can take full effect if our leadership and political parties of various hues and stripes come together on the issues of interests pertaining to the well being of our nation.
Stability, progress, equality, freedom and prosperity in the nation are the major objectives that the makers of our constitution have aimed to bring in the nation. To achieve these goals, the constitution, which has guaranteed the rights and inclusion of all and sundry in the state mechanism, must be taken towards its full implementation. The promulgation of the charter two years ago was indeed an epochal moment for the nation to witness its constitution through the much-awaited Constituent Assembly. But the real worth of it would only be realised when this epochal document is implemented in its letters and spirit.