A leap forward

The second amendment to the Interim Constitution (IC), passed by the Interim Parliament on Wednesday with a resounding majority, must have given many people the impression that Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala’s statements on the republic v monarchy debate contain an element of truth.

The new provision for abolishing the monarchy by a two-thirds parliamentary majority if it conspires against the constituent assembly (CA) polls constitutes, on the one hand, a deterrent to the potential anti-CA role of the royal palace, and holds out, on the other, the constitutional possibility of the abolition of the 238-year-old institution for the first time in the country’s history. Otherwise, the consensus of the eight parties, incorporated into the IC, is that the first meeting of the CA polls will decide the future of the monarchy by a simple majority. In recent times, Koirala said things such as these: Republic will come in due course of time; it is already here in practice; and Nepal is now 80 per cent republic and 20 per cent monarchy.

Whatever may happen to the kingship between now and the CA polls, but the provision is in line with the concept of the people’s sovereignty, which is often used by the parliament in their name — a feature which was absent from the 1990 Constitution and which, perhaps, contributed to its demise. Now, a two-thirds majority can also remove the Prime Minister, but this feature was flawed in one respect — that, against the international parliamentary practice of a simple majority, the requirement of a two-thirds majority was inserted. Besides, it could lead to a constitutional crisis in the future if the eight parties could not arrive at a consensus candidate. Other features include the replacement of the earlier timeframe for the CA polls with one by December 15 and the requirement that the people nominated to certain public posts — the Supreme Court judges, ambassadors, and heads and members of the constitutional organs — first pass the vetting by the Parliamentary Public Hearing Committee.

Vetting is one of the beauties of the American system. But, to make it yield the desired results in Nepal, the hearing should be sincere, serious and thorough so that only the right persons may get those highly important assignments. This will be a good beginning, but in the future, other categories of important appointments should also be included, such as the chiefs of the security forces, high-ranking bureaucrats, heads of the public corporations, appellate court judges, and if possible, even certain local-level government appointees like CDOs, district police chiefs, and district judges. The amendment also provides for the opposition party and opposition leader. But its rationale is feeble because the process of the creation of this interim legislature and its purpose are different from those of a normal elected parliament. Now that the second amendment is in force, all attention should be focused on holding the CA elections in time. The people would not accept yet another poll postponement, which could prove disastrous.