The parliamentary system cannot be made functional unless the Speaker is assertive in implementing his own rulings
After the new constitution was adopted in 2015, the Parliament drafted rules to govern its day-to-day functioning. Unlike the previous rules, the new parliamentary rules have incorporated a provision under which the Prime Minister and members of the council of ministers are required to answer the questions raised by the lawmakers in the Lower and Upper Houses. This provision was included in the rules to make sure that all the ministers become accountable to the House on issues of national importance. The constitution has also stated that the council of ministers is accountable to the Parliament. It is also the duty of the Speaker and the Upper House Chairman to provide appropriate time for the PM and the ministers concerned to furnish replies to both the chambers of the Houses. As per the rules, the PM and ministers are supposed to answer the questions of the lawmakers on issues of public importance at the beginning of every meeting of the House. The PM or the ministers reply to the questions already registered with the Parliament Secretariat, which passes those questions to the concerned ministries.
However, none of the ministers, except for Minister of Industry, Commerce and Supplies Matrika Yadav, has furnished replies to the questions raised by the lawmakers in both the Houses since the budget session commenced on April 29. As many as 41 meetings of the Lower House were held in the past three months. As per the record with the Parliament Secretariat, lawmakers from both the aisles had registered as many as 178 questions to the Office of the PM and Council of Ministers and three other ministries. Except for Yadav, the PM and other ministers have chosen to stay away from furnishing replies to the lawmakers’ questions. The Parliament Secretariat has also made public a weekly calendar for the ministries to take part in the question-answer session. The PM is supposed to answer the questions every Sunday. But he has never attended the question-answer session.
There is no hard and fast rule to have a minister answer all the questions in the House. He or she can choose some of the relevant questions while avoiding the others if s/he finds it unnecessary. However, it is the duty of the Speaker and the Chairman to see to it that the concerned minister is present in both the Houses without fail and furnishes replies to the questions raised by the lawmakers. The question-answer session also makes both the Houses lively, and the public can also know about what is happening in the ministries concerned. Former Speaker Daman Nath Dhungana has rightly said that refusal to answer the questions of the lawmakers is “disregard for democracy”. The rules also provide for the Speaker or the Chairman to issue a ruling to the government on some pressing issues. Speaker Krishna Bahadur Mahara, for example, had said he was positive about forming a parliamentary panel on the killings of Kumar Poudel and Saroj Narayan Singh in Sarlahi on June 20 and 30, respectively. But the Speaker failed to form the panel after Law Minister Bhanubhakta Dhakal opposed his proposal. This clearly shows the Speaker’s weakness in implementing his own ruling. The Speaker’s role is vital in making the parliamentary democracy functional.
Growing rape cases
The growing cases of rape being reported in the country point to just how serious an issue it is, but it is comforting to learn that more and more women are coming forward to report them to the police. In fiscal 2018-19, as many as 2,233 cases of rape were reported to the police, a significant jump from the 1,480 reported the previous year. Less than a thousand were reported in 2015-16 and the years preceding it. This means that the heinous crime had existed in the country all along, only the victims did not report them due to the stigma attached to it and also because the court proceedings in the past made it extremely painful and traumatic for the victim in having to narrate the incident in detail.
It has come to light that the crime is committed more by members of the family, relatives or acquaintances of the victim. What is even more disturbing is that 70 per cent of the victims are minors aged five to 16. Now that it has been established who are most likely to be the perpetrators of the crime, the government, society and family members must think of ways to provide security to the girls. As for the offenders, they must be meted out harsh punishment so that people think twice about committing the crime.
A version of this article appears in print on August 05, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.