Though belatedly, some speed is evident on some fronts as far as reaching agreement on the contentious issues of the constitution in the making is concerned. The pace of drafting the constitution has been hampered because of the lack of the meeting point of the three major parties on a host of issues under dispute. Of course, there has been resolutions on a number of such issues. And, the latest one that has attracted attention has been the decision of the sub-committee under the Constitution Committee (CC) of the Constituent Assembly (CA) to form the Constitutional Court that will be the final authority on the interpretation of the constitution. This must be taken as a positive move to end the lingering stalemate of who would be the interpreter of the constitution: the parliament or the Supreme Court. The UCPN (M) were for vesting the authority to a special parliamentary committee to be the sole interpreter of the constitution. The UCPN (M), by agreeing to the formation of the Constitutional Court, has seen reason to get over this particular disputed issue. The structure of the appointing authority and its terms of reference are yet to be decided.
What is a significant achievement is that one judicial body will be formed solely to look into constitutional issues. The jurisdiction that has been agreed upon for the Constitutional Court to look into are the resolution of disputes related to the posts of national importance like that of the president or the prime minister, addressing issues indirectly related to politics but not those political in nature, delving in laws that contradict the constitution, settling disputes between the centre and the provinces and constitutional amendment and election issues, among others. This jurisdiction of the Constitutional Court will be of vital interest once the new constitution is promulgated. Moreover, the Constitutional Court will reduce the workload of the Supreme Court (SC) by an estimated 25 per cent, which is quite significant. That will also provide the SC the capacity to reduce its backlog of litigations for justice to be delivered in other areas at a faster pace to the satisfaction of the of all. However, there are some who feel that the authority granted to the Constitutional Court on constitutional matters would be a loss for the SC that has so far been the final interpreter of the constitution.
It is worthwhile noting that it has also been decided that the Chief Justice will head the Constitutional Court in his capacity as the ex-officio chairman. The Court, as it is plain, will be under the domain of the SC. The landmark decision for the constitution of the CC once more establishes the fact that due respect has been accorded to the independence of the judiciary to be enshrined in the constitution that is being drafted for completion by the May 28 deadline. In fact, by taking up the new global trend in the establishment of a separate Constitutional Court, the statute draft will be breaking new grounds.
The decision to form the Constitutional Court ought to be welcomed, yet the challenges, after the promulgation of the new constitution, have to be tackled as they arise.
Up and up
The price of petrol has seen much fluctuation, mostly towards the higher side. Now, its price has been hiked from Rs. 88 to Rs. 97 per litre. The aviation fuel price was also raised from Rs. 80 to Rs. 90 per liter for domestic airlines. The prices of kerosene, diesel and cooking gas were, however, untouched. The Nepal Oil Corporation (NOC) cited the increase in the price of petroleum products in the international market for compelling it to raise the price. It says that even with the price hike it is still losing Rs 0.09 per litre from petrol. However, it is profiting Rs. 15 per litre from aviation fuel. The skyrocketing price hike of petroleum products in the international market may be a valid reason for NOC to raise the price of fuel, yet this solely is not responsible for the high price of fuel in the country.
What about plugging the leakages, which the NOC is not doing. It had hiked the price of fuel
five times last year inviting instability. The hiked-up fuel prices were responsible for price increase of essential commodities. Let us hope that NOC knows what it is doing and not only scheming to provide bonuses to its staff.