The parliament has been held hostage to the bickering between Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli and the Speaker, Agni Sapkota, as a result of which as many as 36 bills are pending in the House. This is most unfortunate as the winter session of the parliament is supposed to pass a large number of bills compared to the budget session, which largely deliberates on the income and expenditure of the government for the following fiscal year. The Prime Minister and the Speaker now represent two rival political parties, the CPN (UML) and the CPN-MC respectively, following the recent annulment of the unification of the two parties as the Nepal Communist Party (NCP) at the time of the formation of this government in February 2018. Speaker Sapkota has even filed a case against the government for making appointments to various constitutional bodies without a parliamentary hearing as Prime Minister Oli had dissolved the House of Representatives on December 20 and called fresh elections, much to the chagrin of his opponents in the NCP.
Some of the bills are sensitive and require cautious deliberation before they are passed by the parliament
Since the House of Representatives (HoR) held its first meeting on March 7, following its reinstatement by the Supreme Court, the House has stayed idle for want of business. The very first meeting of the HoR had erupted into total pandemonium after the government tabled the Constitutional Council Act (Amendment) Ordinance, which enables the Council that appoints officials to constitutional bodies to take decisions on the basis of majority. This was a deliberate move of the government to stall the House proceedings, knowing fully well that the ordinance would meet with vehement opposition from the lawmakers.
There are some crucial bills that need to be passed immediately, such as the Citizenship (Amendment) Act Bill, Federal Civil Service Bill, CIAA Bill and the Nepal Civil Aviation Authority Bill.
Some of the bills are sensitive and require cautious deliberation before they are passed by the parliament.
But the government faces a dilemma, as these bills were registered when the UML and MC were part of the government as the NCP. But as the two have now parted ways, their standing on the bills might not be the same as before, although they are still in the government. There is bound to be opposition from the CPN-MC parliamentarians to these bills when they are tabled. Thus, as the Minister for Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs has noted, the government would like to see consensus among the political parties on the Citizenship and Civil Service bills before passing them. The Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority and Civil Aviation Bills, which originated in the National Assembly (NA), too have failed to move ahead as the government did not call the NA and HoR meeting simultaneously.
The civil aviation bill that envisages splitting the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal into regulatory and service provider bodies is a bill that must be passed urgently as Nepali airlines will continue to be barred from flying in the skies of the European Union until this happens. Despite the urgency of these bills, it is unlikely that the House will sit unless the government is certain that the rival faction and opposition parties will not oppose them for the sake of opposing.
Fagu Purnima is being celebrated on Sunday (March 28) in the Kathmandu Valley. The people in the Tarai region mark it the following day. During this day-long festival of colours, mostly youngsters in the urban areas become wayward, risking their lives and causing great inconvenience to those who are not part of the festival. It is quite difficult for the law enforcement agencies and traffic police to manage law and order and traffic on that day.
Many deaths are also reported every year on this day due to drunk or reckless driving, especially of two-wheelers. Keeping all these possibilities in mind, the police must remain on high alert on that day to prevent any untoward incidents, such as fatal road accidents or clashes between rival factions of youngsters wanting to settle scores. At the same time, the Ministry of Health has also appealed to the people to mark the festival at home only among the family members and avoid large gatherings to stay safe from coronavirus infection. As India has already witnessed the second wave of COVID-19 infection, its impact has also been felt in Nepal due to the open border. So let's celebrate the festival by taking extra precautions.
A version of this article appears in the print on March 26, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.