Nepal | April 22, 2019

Drafting panel endorses first draft of new constitution

Prakash Acharya
Constituent Assembly building, New Baneshwor, Kathmandu. Photo: THT/File

Constituent Assembly building, New Baneshwor, Kathmandu. Photo: THT/File

KATHMANDU: The Constitution Drafting Committee completed its task on Sunday, within the given time, by endorsing unanimously the integrated first draft of the new constitution. Some issues were settled on Sunday and incorporated in the first draft while a few others are yet to be settled.

As CA members of almost all parties have registered their opinions on various issues, including secularism, pluralism, reappointment in constitutional bodies, forms of governance, citizenship, rights of Dalits and women, the parties will try again to forge consensus on them and improve the draft even after the document is tabled at the CA tomorrow, said CDC Chairman Krishna Prasad Sitaula. The first draft will be tabled at the CA meeting slated for 3:00pm tomorrow. Earlier, a meeting of Business Advisory Committee of the CA will take a decision about how much time should be allotted to collect people’s feedback on the first draft. Major parties are preparing to deliver the new constitution by July 16 by cutting short many CA procedures.

The draft, prepared on Friday by the task force of the CDC, will be modified till tomorrow by incorporating the issues agreed upon today, said Sitaula at a press meeting held after the CDC endorsed the document.

The parties today agreed to adopt mixed election system in state assemblies, with 60 per cent first-past-the-post and 40 per cent proportional representation seats as in the election system for federal Parliament.

In another significant agreement, children can acquire citizenship certificate in the name of either father or mother, according to CDC member Ram Narayan Bidari. “We have agreed to include “father or mother” for attaining citizenship certificate,” said UML leader Jhalanath Khanal after a meeting of four parties – Nepali Congress, CPN-UML, Unified CPN-Maoist and Madhesi Janaadhikar Forum (Democratic) – held in Baluwatar.

The meeting decided to forward the first draft for further processing and continue talks on the remaining disputed issues, according to UCPN-M leader Narayan Kaji Shrestha.

“Multiparty democracy” has been added in the list of unamendable provisions that also include independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Nepal and sovereignty vested in people. Provision related to amendment to the new constitution has been relaxed, as any issue other than the five can be amended through a two-thirds majority of the federal parliament. The proposed provision of referendum for constitution amendment on other key issues has been removed, according to NC leader Narahari Acharya.

Provision relating to protected and special regions to protect underprivileged/ backward/minority groups will be incorporated in the first draft, according to Bidari.

Whether or not the office bearers of the constitutional bodies should be reappointed after the commencement of the new constitution has not been mentioned in the draft. It is still a disputed issue, as Nepali Congress has been lobbying not to mention this provision in the new constitution while CA members of CPN-UML and Unified CPN-Maoist have been demanding their reappointment.

The term “pluralism” has been inserted under part of executive, although the NC has been lobbying for inserting it under Preamble.

Seven NC lawmakers – Shekhar Koirala, Shankar Bhandari, Arzoo Rana Deuba, Mahalaxmi Upadhaya (Dina), Jagadishwor Narsingh KC, Prakash Sharan Mahat and Hari Nepal have registered their written opinion to remove secularism and replace it with religious freedom. Other NC members, including Narahari Acharya, Kamala Panta, Sharada Paudel and Kabita Kumari Sardar pitched for religious freedom instead of secularism while speaking at today’s CDC meeting.

Five UML members — Rewati Raman Bhandari, Ranju Kumari Jha, Garima Shah, Shiva Kumari Gotame and Sita Giri (Oli) — suggested in writing for replacing secularism with religious freedom. Some UCPN-M members opposed cow as the national animal.

Agreement on contentious issues

•    Citizenship certificate can be acquired in the name of either father or mother
•    Mixed election system (60 pc FPTP and 40 pc PR) for state assemblies
•    Multi-party democracy added to the list of unamendable provisions
•    Some parties back religious freedom instead of secularism

A version of this article appears in print on June 29, 2015 of The Himalayan Times.

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