First amendment of constitution effected amid protest from Madhes parties

Kathmandu, January 23

The Legislature-Parliament today made the first amendment of the Constitution of Nepal four months after its promulgation ensuring proportional inclusion for backward communities in state bodies and increasing the number of constituencies in the Tarai region.

The two Articles amended today were: Article 42 (1) and Article 286 (5).

It took three-and-half months to pass the bill after it was registered by the erstwhile Nepali Congress-led government on October 7.

The original bill was amended through amendment proposals registered by mainly two groups of lawmakers of Nepali Congress led by Minendra Rijal and Farmullah Mansur.

From among the 24 amendment proposals registered on the bill, 21 were withdrawn today after the parties agreed to pass an integrated proposal.

Three proposals registered by Prem Suwal of NWPP, Durga Paudel of Rastriya Janamorcha Party and Jay Dev Joshi of CPN-United were rejected by majority vote.

A meeting of the House endorsed the Bill on First Amendment of the Constitution of Nepal with comfortable two-third majority amid disagreement from the agitating Madhes-based parties. Although these were the two key demands of the agitating Madhes-based parties, they protested in the well and walked out chanting slogans against the bill as soon as it was put to vote.

Of the 596 members of Parliament, 468 took part in voting and among them 461 voted in favour of the bill while seven voted against it. The seven MPs include Deputy Prime Minister and Rastriya Janamorcha Party leader Chitra Bahadur KC and his party’s lawmakers Mina Pun and Durga Paudel and four members of Nepal Workers and Peasants’ Party - Narayan Man Bijukche, Prem Suwal, Dilli Prasad Kafle and Anuradha Thapa Magar.

Marathon meetings of major political parties held at Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli’s residence in Baluwatar and in the Parliament building in New Baneshwor had prepared the integrated proposal by using the amendment proposals.

On the issue of proportional inclusion, the 17 clusters that will benefit from proportional inclusion have been reduced to 15 by removing two – youth and aboriginals. The 15 clusters, according to the amended provision, include women, Dalits, indigenous nationalities, Madhesis, Tharus, Muslims, backward groups, minorities, marginalised groups, disabled persons, sexual minorities, peasants, labourers, people belonging to backward regions and the Khas Arya.

The clusters should belong to backward groups from economic, social and educational point of view.

As per the amended provision, there will be 79 or 80 constituencies in the Tarai-Madhes and 85 or 86 in the hills and mountains, according to Rijal.

The amended provision reads, “While delimiting electoral constituencies by the Constituency Delimitation Commission as per this Article, constituencies will be delimited in each province by making population the major basis and geography the second basis …All districts of each province will have a minimum one constituency.”

Before the bill was put to vote, Sarvendra Nath Shukla of Tarai Madhes Democratic Party addressed the House and said the agitating Madhes-based parties could not agree to the bill as it was brought without forging consensus with them. “We agitated for nearly six months, but the government and the major parties did not address our demands in a package. Rather, they are going to pass the bill unilaterally. So, we have decided to protest against it,” Shukla said. Immediately after he spoke, the lawmakers of agitating parties went to the well, chanted slogans for some time and walked out of Parliament after the voting process began.

Sadbhawana Party leader Laxman Lal Karna said after the walk-out, “We will continue the Tarai movement as the parties have passed the bill without addressing our concerns. Amendment to the constitution is insufficient and does not resolve the Madhes agitation.”