Lawyers oppose restrictive clauses

KATHMANDU: The first draft of the constitution has broadened fundamental rights compared to the Interim Constitution but critics say restrictive clauses could extremely limit those rights.

Human rights lawyer Govinda Bandi said although the draft constitution intended to broaden economic, social and cultural rights, it, however, intended to limit civil and political rights. He said the draft constitution’s provisions were not compatible with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which Nepal has ratified.

The restrictive clause of the right to freedom provision, he argued, stipulates that the state could curtail fundamental rights ensured under Article 22 by making laws reasoning that certain action(s) of citizens could be defamatory and contemptuous.

“The principle of the fundamental rights is that these rights cannot be curtailed by any law,” he said and added that the state could prescribe some reasonable limitations but that should be mentioned clearly in the constitution itself.

Bandi said in most of the provisions related to fundamental rights, it was mentioned that the rights would be ensured by enacting laws. “This means handing over something to somebody from one hand and taking it back from other hand,” Bandi added.

According to Bandi, the compulsory labour provision of Article 52 could extremely limit citizens’ human rights.

He said citizens should have the right to seek legal remedies from the nearest court under normal jurisdiction but the draft constitution stated that the citizens would have to approach the Supreme Court or the high courts to seek legal remedies for rights violation under extraordinary jurisdiction of the court.

Senior Advocate Sapana Pradhan Malla said the draft constitution did not ensure women’s right to reproductive health under the right to health clause.

Malla said the draft constitution stated in Article 51 (2) that the state could enact laws within three years from the date of the commencement of the constitution as per the need to enforce rights guaranteed under this part of the constitution but the mention of the phrase ‘as per the need’ was wrong.

“The state cannot say that there was no need to enforce certain fundamental rights,” she argued.

Another Advocate Dipendra Jha said the proviso clauses of the fundamental rights intended to limit the fundamental rights of the citizen. Jha said Article 23 (3) stated that laws could be enacted to protect the rights of socially and culturally backward groups, including Khas Arya, but this group could not be termed backward on the basis of HDI or any other government indices.

He said many abstract phrases had been used in the draft constitution under Article 22 (3) which could unnecessarily limit citizens’ fundamental rights.

The draft constitution has added some new fundamental rights, such as right to employment, right to food, right to food security, consumers’ right and rights of Dalits, senior citizens’ rights and rights of crime victims.