SAC split on poll bill contents

I’ll withdraw my amendment proposal and other NC MPs may also do the same

Kathmandu, September 1

The Parliamentary State Affairs Committee today postponed a crucial meeting until Monday, as its members were split on key contents of the Bill on Election of the Lower House Members, including controversial amendments proposed by Nepali Congress lawmakers.

Section 13 (e) of the bill proposes lifetime ban on  people convicted  of corruption, rape, human trafficking, drug smuggling, money laundering, misuse of passports, kidnapping, or people  convicted of  crimes of moral turpitude or those who  were awarded jail term of more than 20 years, from contesting elections.

Some NC lawmakers have registered proposals to amend the bill stating that lifetime ban on the crimes listed in Section 13 (e) of the bill should be lifted and people convicted of such crimes should be allowed to contest elections three years after they serve their jail sentence.

After discussing the bill in the morning, SAC Chair Dil Bahadur Gharti called the next meeting of the panel at 3:00pm today. But since disagreement among members persisted, Gharti postponed the meeting till 8:00am on Monday.

Gharti said the panel members were divided on provisions relating to banning convicts of serious crimes from contesting elections, right to vote none of the candidates, right to recall a non-performing winner and reservation for women in the first-past-the-post system.

He said the panel would finalise the bill on Monday. “I hope the SAC passes the bill on the basis of understanding,” he added.

SAC member Ganga Lal Tuladhar (CPN-UML) said they agreed to postpone the meeting till Monday on the condition that the SAC would pass its report and table it in the Parliament the same day.

Radhe Shyam Adhikari, Taraman Gurung, Buddhi Ram Bhandari, Tapta Bahadur Bista, Sushila Chaudhari, Padma Narayan Chaudhari, Ishwari Neupane, Sitaram Mahato and Ananda Prasad Dhungana are among the NC lawmakers who  have registered amendment proposals on the bill, saying that convicted people should be allowed to contest elections  three years after serving  their jail term. Dhungana told THT that NC lawmakers had moved amendment proposals on their own and not at the party’s behest. “I am going to withdraw my amendment proposal and other NC lawmakers may also do the same,” he said.

Lawmakers from the CPN-UML and other fringe parties, including Nepal Workers’ and Peasants’ Party and Rastriya Janamorcha are against changing the bill’s original provision that proposes lifetime ban   on convicts of serious crimes.

CPN-Maoist Centre Chief Whip Rekha Sharma said her party was against the amendments moved against Section 13 (e) of the bill by NC lawmakers.

“We have passed the local level election bill and bill relating to political parties that place lifetime ban on convicts of serious crimes and we stand by Section 13 (e) of the bill. We support the bill also because the bill was brought by this coalition government of which our party is a partner,” she added.

NC lawmaker Radhe Shyam Adhikari, who favours amendment to Section 13 (e), said:  “When a law jails or fines convicts, that punishment itself is enough.”