Nepal | August 07, 2020

Members, MPs flay govt for bid to keep rights watchdog on tight leash

Jagdishor Panday
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This combo image shows Bhanu Bhakta Dhakal, Minister of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs, and Anup Raj Sharma, chairman of National Human Rights Commission (right). Photo: THT

Kathmandu, April 30

Members of the National Human Rights Commission and lawmakers from both ruling and opposition parties today condemned the government’s move to curtail constitutional rights of the human rights watchdog.

The government has drafted a bill to amend the NHRC Act, which stakeholders say proposes to make the constitutional body a weak division of the government.

We are shocked to see the bill registered in the House. We urge the govt to revise it before it becomes an act — Anup Raj Sharma, NHRC chairman

Speaking in the Parliamentary Law, Justice and Human Rights Committee, NHRC Chairman Anup Raj Sharma said the government ignored their 16-point suggestions on the draft bill and introduced a bill aimed at curtailing powers of the rights body.

“We are shocked to see the bill registered in the Parliament. We urge the government to revise it before it becomes an act,” he said.

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 tells the NHRC to conduct further probe into certain cases, the latter should comply with the order. The draft bill adds 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. It also does not allow financial and administrative independence to the NHRC.

NHRC members Prakash Osti, Mohana Ansari and Govinda Sharma Paudel said the government was trying to minimise the NHRC’s role in violation of constitutional provisions.

Chief Whip of the ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) Dev Prasad Gurung said the bill should abide by constitutional provisions.

Chief Whip of main opposition Nepali Congress Bal Krishna Khand said the government was adopting conservative approach against democratic principles. “As the main opposition, the NC requests the government to consider the NHRC’s suggestions on amendment bill,” he said.

Rastriya Janata Party-Nepal lawmaker Laxman Lal Karna said the government could amend the bill if it was inconsistent with the constitution and created dissatisfaction among people. “The NHRC Act cannot curtail the commission’s rights guaranteed by the constitution,” he said.

NC lawmaker Min Bahadur Biswakarma criticised the government for its lack of knowledge on the sensitive issue of human rights.

We’ll not withdraw the bill just because some people don’t like it  — Bhanu Bhakta Dhakal, Minister of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs

In his reply, Minister of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs Bhanu Bhakta Dhakal said the government would make its position clear when the bill goes for clause-wise discussion in the parliamentary committee.

“The government has kept in mind the concerns raised by NHRC chairperson and members,” he said. “However, we are not going to withdraw the bill just because some people don’t like it.”

A version of this article appears in print on May 01, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.

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