Nepal | August 12, 2020

EDITORIAL: For a strong NHRC

The Himalayan Times
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All these provisions have raised the suspicion that it is intended to give a clean chit to violators of human rights

The government draft bill seeking amendment of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) Act aimed at curtailing its constitutional rights has faced the wrath of not only the body’s members but also the lawmakers of both the ruling and opposition parties. The draft bill proposes to give unnecessary discretionary powers to the Attorney General (AG) on the prosecution of cases after the NHRC has made recommendations to conduct legal proceedings against human rights violators. During a heated debate at the parliamentary Law, Justice and Human Rights Committee on Tuesday, there was even an exchange of barbs between the NHRC chairman and the concerned minister. While the former wanted a revision of the bill before it was enacted into law, the latter was adamant on not withdrawing it “just because some people don’t like it”. Beyond the shadow of a doubt, the intention of the draft bill is to minimise the role of the human rights watchdog and render it into a toothless government entity.

The rights body had forwarded a draft of the bill to amend the NHRC Act with 16 suggestions to the government, but it was shocking to see a host of provisions that were never submitted or intended. In essence, the government’s draft bill makes the AG all powerful. The draft bill, for instance, states that the NHRC must make recommendations to the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) to file court cases, and the final say on whether to do so lies with the AG. According to the NHRC, although the OAG has the power not to file certain cases in court, it would be wrong to exercise such power after the human rights body had named the perpetrators following a thorough investigation and sought action against them. The NHRC is also obligated to conduct further investigation into certain cases should the AG so demand. The OAG has the authority to carry out its own investigation if it thinks that the NHRC’s probe is incomplete. But it would be wrong on the part of the OAG to be dictating what to do to the NHRC as the watchdog presents its report to the PM, not to the OAG. All these provisions have raised suspicion that it is intended to give a clean chit to the violators of human rights.

Quite a few bills registered in the Parliament have landed the government in one controversy after another. They have faced many hues and cry in the House as they seem intended to concentrate power at the centre or weaken the state institutions. This does not do good for the image of the government. Its arrogance that it can push any bill through the Parliament because it has a nearly two-thirds majority could prove counter-productive. Respect the autonomy of the rights body, as enshrined in the constitution, so that it is in a position to function independently and efficiently. This means also ensuring its financial and administrative independence. The proposed amendment to the NHRC Act cannot curtail the rights guaranteed by the constitution to the watchdog body. Let the spirit of the constitution prevail, and that means the government must take the NHRC’s recommendations to heart and not ignore them. When the lawmakers start debating the bill in the House, they must use their conscience to uphold the dignity of the constitutional body.

Waste management

Industries produce more waste than all the city households combined. However, 90 per cent of the industries that produce toxic waste are operating without a waste management system in place, according to Environment Statistics of Nepal-2019 (ESN). ESN came to this conclusion after conducting a survey of 4,076 industries across the country.

As per the laws, an industry must have an in-built system to manage all kinds of waste it produces. Only about a fifth of the industries categorised as ‘Chemical and Chemical Products’ have installed an in-built waste management system. Industries cause pollution of the water bodies, air, land as well as noise pollution. These industries must install an in-built mechanism to minimise environmental degradation in the areas where they are based. The concerned authorities should also constantly carry out monitoring to make sure that they are operating as per the laws. Industries are the backbone of economic prosperity. But they must not be allowed to play foul with the environment and local communities. The Local Government Operation Act has given legal teeth to the local levels to handle this issue. They must act to ensure that all the industries strictly follow the laws.


A version of this article appears in print on May 02, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.

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