After nearly twenty months of the second Constituent Assembly elections, the CA Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC) completed its task of crafting the preliminary integrated draft of the Constitution of Nepal within the 15-day deadline set by the CA and presented it to CA Chairman Subas Chandra Nembang yesterday evening for further action towards delivering the country a new constitution. The political parties and the CA had failed to bring out the constitution within one year as promised but the 7.6 Richter scale earthquake that badly shook large parts of the country, including the Kathmandu Valley, on April 25 gave the political parties, especially the main opposition UCPN-Maoist, a heaven-sent opportunity to present themselves more flexibly. As a result, the 16-point agreement was worked out, paving the way for the present development that has provided hope to Nepalis.
The weaker points of the draft need to be further amended during its journey towards promulgation – from the perspectives of national interestsAmong the salient features of the constitution are the federal structure, parliamentary system, parallel-mixed election system, secularism, modified citizenship provisions including citizenship to non-resident Nepalis with non-political rights, the requirement for citizenship by descent to fill the key posts, by election, appointment or nomination—President, Vice President, Prime Minister, Chief Justice, Speaker, Chairman of the Upper House, Governor, Chief Minister and Speaker of Pradesh Assembly—caps on the sizes of Cabinet of federal and provincial governments, provisions of local bodies in the Constitution with clear jurisdictions and rights, and 33 per cent quotas for women in federal parliament and Pradesh assemblies. A defective election system has been adopted for the federal parliament and Pradesh assemblies – 60 percent of the total seats to be filled by representatives elected directly by the people and 40 percent seats to be filled by nominees of the central committees of the parties which can any way expect to win a certain proportion of the total number of votes cast. To make matters worse for democratic governance, such nominated members can hold any post, even that of Prime Minister and Chief Minister. The heavy presence of proportionally-chosen lawmakers will make a hung parliament or assembly almost certain, besides the other consequences that will follow. The preliminary draft prohibits religious conversions, as in previous constitutions, but it has not addressed the serious problem of mass conversions, since the promulgation of the 1990 Constitution, of Nepalis from their traditional religions followed for millennia to alien religion through the allure of monetary and other benefits. There needs to be a national body, as exists in some countries that will screen applications for conversion whether the person concerned is seeking to adopt another religion with full understanding and meaning of what he is going to do and without any temptation. The weaker points of the draft need to be further amended during its journey towards promulgation – from the perspectives of national interests of the country and the well-being of the Nepalis, as well as from the point of view of democratic good governance. Bad medicine The Supreme Court has told the hospitals not to rent their spaces to private companies and individuals to sell medicine. The hospitals are supposed to have their own pharmacies selling prescribed medicines and also for distributing them for free. The prices of some medicines are over 90 per cent higher in the private pharmacies than in the pharmacies of the hospitals. Thus, plans by Bir Hospital to rent stalls at Rs. 11,00,000 per month for those desiring to open pharmacies in their premises has now been shelved. This state of affairs needs to be probed thoroughly to ensure that the people are not cheated outright. Moreover, the private pharmacies are also selling medicines whose date has expired, besides over charging those who buy medicines from them. According to the Hospital Pharmacy Service Directory 2013, the hospitals should have their own pharmacies. Hospitals should operate well stocked pharmacies with medicines to be sold at subsidized prices. Meanwhile, the health officials should be monitoring the private pharmacies all over the country to rule out anomalies.