EDITORIAL: Fast-tracked

Fundamental rights are essential to safeguard interests of the people, so the state now must act for their full implementation

The Constitution of Nepal promulgated on September 20, 2015 provisioned that all legal provisions for the implementation of the fundamental rights must be put in place “within three years from the commencement” of the charter. This required the state to pass all the bills related to fundamental rights by September 19, 2018 (Wednesday). Just three days before the deadline, the National Assembly (NA) on Sunday endorsed 11 bills and the House of Representatives passed two bills. The NA had already passed four other bills related to fundamental rights. Articles 16-46 of the Constitution stipulate fundamental rights of citizens. According to Parliament Secretary Bharat Raj Gautam, the federal Parliament endorsed the bills related to fundamental rights through “fast-track process” to meet the deadline.

“Fast-track” in Nepal’s polity has become a norm, whereas it should have been an exception. After squabbling for years, Nepali political actors came together in 2015—after the devastating earthquake on April 25 that year—and reached a deal to “fast-track” constitution drafting. After seven long years, when political parties promulgated the constitution, there were some reservations from some sections of the society. The fast-tracking of the process also hugely cut short the time that was to be allocated for collecting feedbacks from the general public. That’s there; now the country, after elections, is in the constitution implementation phase.

Making legal provisions for the enjoyment of fundamental rights is a crucial part of the constitution implementation process. But political actors once again started squabbling after the country got its new charter. The game of musical chair continued until elections were held last year. It took almost six months after the elections to pass the parliamentary regulations, largely due to differences over the number of parliamentary committees and strength of Parliamentary Hearing Committee. Then some crucial bills, including Right to Privacy Bill, came under scrutiny for some draconian clauses they carried. According to sources, Prime Minister KP Oli, Nepal Communist Party Co-Chair Pushpa Kamal Dahal and Nepali Congress President had reached an understanding to “fast-track” the passage of the bill “to meet the constitution deadline”. The federal Parliament then suspended some parliamentary rules to pave the way for the passage of the 16 bills, depriving lawmakers of enough time to debate in Parliament. Some lawmakers have rightly pointed at the flawed process, saying there is enough room to doubt that the contents would be implemented, as there was no adequate debate. This once again reflects the self-centric attitude of Nepal’s political actors—they are on one page when their interests converge and they squabble when their interests diverge. This hence puts the interests of the citizenry on the back burner. Contents of some of the bills did demand extended deliberations. Fundamental rights are essential to safeguard the interests of the people and they constitute the backbone of the nation. Now that the bills on fundamental rights, which are a binding, have been endorsed, the government, parliamentarians and political actors must act sincerely to implement them.

Unmet pledges

Forty-one months after the devastating earthquake in 2015, the National Reconstruction Authority (NRA) has now sought additional Rs 600 billion to complete the reconstruction works. NRA CEO Sushil Gyewali said on Sunday that a huge amount of money was required, especially to rehabilitate the quake-affected families in safer places. So far, the NRA has spent Rs 185 billion in the last three years. The government has allocated Rs 151.08 billion for reconstruction for this fiscal.

Gyewali has said his office would spend Rs 336 billion in this fiscal. The additional amount of money will be mobilised only after convening the second donors’ conference. The first donors’ conference held in June 2015 had estimated around Rs 938 billion to complete the reconstruction work. At that time, the donors had pledged Rs 410 billion. But the actual money they had pledged hovered somewhere near Rs 343 billion. The Ministry of Finance has so far signed agreements with the donors for the money to the tune of Rs 262 billion. It is high time that the donors also fulfilled their commitments. The NRA also should effectively utilise its resources to rehabilitate the displaced families.