Becoming great

The new constitutional provision under which the nominees for ambassadorship, the constitutional organs and the Supreme Court have to pass through the parliamentary confirmation hearing has been widely hailed as the right step towards ensuring that the right people are drafted for the right jobs. Currently, four nominees for the Supreme Court and 14 ambassadorship are waiting to be vetted. Several countries, the most prominently the United States, have adopted this system, and from time to time presidential nominees have been rejected or compelled to withdraw their bid whenever public controversy arises as to one or more aspects of their character or questions of propriety come up. Not long ago, the presidential nominee for the US Supreme Court had to abandon her bid as public questions started arising about her suitability.

However, the system in Nepal, many fear, may prove to be a weak imitation, if it is not put into practice with the rigour required for its effectiveness. But at present, serious public doubts persist about the seriousness of purpose among those concerned. In the first place, will the MPs represented in the Parliamentary Hearing Special Committee (PHSP) from the various political parties stand firm in rejecting the nominees of their respective party leaderships? Or, if serious public questions are raised about any of the nominees’ character or credentials, will the nominees opt out themselves? Neither of these is likely in Nepal if the past is any guide. Then, what will happen? How will the public come to know what job criteria the nominees met. And what are the criteria? At least the public is still in the dark. What are the common criteria and what are the peculiar ones?

The process adopted in vetting the EC officials for the first time was too short, hurriedly completed, with the public being virtually unaware of official appeals to produce truth about the nominees’ credentials. If this kind of vetting takes place, the system will only have decorative value. Moreover, the line of qualification and disqualification should be clear, and the standards applied to the same post should be uniform from one nominee to another. Moreover, when is the government bound to follow public opinion? Not long ago, after the pre-interim government had decided on the names of the new ambassadorial nominees, Prime Minister Koirala had once said that irrespective of the committee’s opinion those already chosen by the Cabinet would go to their designated capitals. This thinking is neither in line with democratic process nor does it demonstrate respect for public opinion. To mar the beauty of the vetting system, unanimity, rather than majority decision, of the hearing committee has been made necessary to overturn the government’s nominations. But the question arises whether unanimity can pass candidates with tainted character. Other defects include less than a week’s time for the public to register complaints against the candidates and just 15 days to complete the whole process, failing which the nominees will be deemed to have been confirmed.