Nepal | January 25, 2021

Bill that curtails NHRC’s rights not acceptable, say former chief justices

Jagdish Panday
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If the government curtailed the rights of the NHRC, civil society would take to the streets

Kathmandu, July 12

Former chief justices, civil society members and legal eagles today said they would not accept it if the bill registered in the Parliament to amend the National Human Rights Commission Act was endorsed without removing the provisions that curtail the rights of the rights watchdog.

During a programme organised here, they said the bill’s provision had curtailed the rights of the NHRC in terms of its autonomy, administrative and financial power. The bill proposes more discretionary authority to the attorney general on the rights body’s recommendations seeking prosecution of human rights violators. It also proposes that the NHRC should make recommendations for filing court cases to the Office of the Attorney General. The bill also states that if the AG directs the NHRC to probe into certain cases, the latter should comply with the order. The draft bill stipulates that the AG will have the authority to take a final call on filing cases against alleged human rights violators after analysing additional evidences submitted by the NHRC.

Former chief justice Sushila Karki said she was doubtful whether the government was trying to render the constitutional body a weak division of the government.  “Provisions limiting the functions and jurisdiction of the NHRC should be removed from the bill to make it an independent constitutional body,” she added saying that she would keep on fighting to ensure that the government respected human rights.

She said the government was responsible for deteriorating human rights condition in the country.

Another former chief justice and chairperson of Constitution Watch Group Kalyan Shrestha said political parties did not respect democratic norms and values. “The government seems reluctant in implementing court orders and recommendation of the NHRC,” he said. Shrestha also questioned whether the government with two-thirds majority was above the country’s constitution.

Shrestha said the constitutional commissions were formed to help the government. “It is not right to interpret decisions by constitutional commissions as directed at failing the government. In democracy the government should be ready to accept criticism.”

Shrestha also criticised the government for allocating paltry 20.1 million rupees for the NHRC. “Will it be enough to run the office of the NHRC? The commission looks after implementation of 31 fundamental rights of the constitution, other national and international laws and carries out investigations into different other cases,” he said, adding that the government should at least allocate Rs 21 billion for the commission.

Former chief justice and Chair of NHRC Anup Raj Sharma said that he would continue to fight to protect human rights in the country.

Senior Advocate Shambhu Thapa said AG should not be given the power to control the NHRC. “The AG cannot direct or recommend a case to the NHRC, rather the AG should act on the recommendations of the NHRC.”

Civil society member Kapil Shrestha said if the government curtailed the rights of the NHRC through the amendment bill, civil society would take to the streets against it. He also reminded the government of their struggle to protect human rights during late king Mahendra’s regime.

Defending the questions and comments, Deputy Parliamentary Party Leader of the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) Subas Chandra Nembang, Chief Whip of NCP Dev Prasad Gurung, Minister of Law Justice and Parliamentary Affairs Bhanu Bhakta Dhakal and Chair of  Parliamentary Law, Justice and Human Rights committee Krishna Bhakta Manandhar assured that the government and the Parliament would finalise the bill in line with the constitutional provisions.

At the beginning of the programme, legal expert Bipin Adhikari, presented a paper based on human rights and the NHRC bill stating that the government should not curtail the rights of the NHRC.

A version of this article appears in print on July 13, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.

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