Nepal | August 05, 2020

Constitutional commissions yet to get full shape

Roshan S Nepal
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Kathmandu, August 16 

It’s been almost four years since promulgation of the constitution, but seven thematic commissions envisioned in the statute to address concerns of marginalised groups are yet to get complete shape.

Rights activists attribute the situation to flawed notion of political parties on governance, human rights and justice.

Of the seven such thematic commissions, four are awaiting appointment of office bearers, whereas the three only have chairpersons. As per the constitutional provision, each of these commissions will have a chairperson and up to four members.

The Constitutional Council headed by the prime minister had on January 20 named chiefs of four commissions — Shanta Raj Subedi as chairperson of the Inclusive Commission, Vijay Kumar Dutta as chairman of the Madhesi Commission, Bishnu Prasad Chaudhary as chief of the Tharu Commission and Samim Ansari as chief of the Muslim Commission. After Subedi resigned from his post recently, the Inclusion Commission is now left with only one member.

At that time, the government had said appointments in rest of the three commissions — the Indigenous Nationalities Commission, the National Dalit Commission and the National Women Commission — would be made soon.

While the commissions without members are only discharging administrative duties, those with only chairmen are facing difficulties in taking decisions. Moreover, the commissions have also complained about lack of human resources and other infrastructure for their functioning.

Under Secretary at the Dalit Commission Giriraj Gyawali said they were limited to doing administrative works because of delay in appointment of members. “If we receive complaints, we can convey to police or chief district officers, but cannot make policy recommendations to the government,” he said.

Gyawali also complained about lack of necessary infrastructure as the commission was stationed in a congested five-room apartment. “Should the appointment of members be made, we will fall short of space,” he said.

The situation is no different with commissions that have chiefs. The Madhesi Commission Chair Dutta said he was facing difficulties in taking unilateral decisions on issues that would have long-term impact, besides complaining about manpower shortage.

Tharu Commission Chair Chaudhari expressed a similar view. “Since I am from the western part of the country, I definitely face difficulties in taking decisions regarding concerns of Tharus in the east,” he said, adding, “If we had members representing different parts of the country, decision making would have been much faster and easier.”

Rights activists said the commissions were provisioned in the constitution not because of their necessity, but for political appeasement.

“At a time when the government is feeling burdened by the National Human Rights Commission, how can we expect formation of other commissions that function as watchdogs,” said rights activist Kapil Shrestha. “The government does not want strong watchdogs, but submissive ones.”

Experts also attributed inordinate delay in formation of the commissions to the culture of seat sharing among political parties, including the opposition party.

The NHRC member Mohna Ansari said the opposition party, which was represented in the Constitutional Council, was equally responsible. She said the opposition could pressure the government, but the quota system for appointments held it back.

“Not addressing concerns of excluded groups for a long time means not recognising voices of groups that have long been waiting for social justice, among other things,” she said, adding, “Offering them a platform for sharing their concerns and addressing them will definitely be in the interest of the parties and the nation. But the issues are raised only during elections.”

Both Ansari and Shrestha said a divided civil society and intelligentsia also resulted in almost non-existence of pressure groups, which emboldened the government and parties not to be accountable to issues of public concerns.

The government said that the appointments will be made at an appropriate time after necessary consultation. “When the appointments are made, there’s hullabaloo. But that should not be a reason for delay,” said Minister for Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs Bhanu Bhakta Dhakal.

“The government is serious about the delay, and appointments will be made after necessary consultations,” he added.

A version of this article appears in print on August 17, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.

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