EDITORIAL: PHC’s efficacy

PHC members represent the parties, but they should rise above partisan interests when it comes to approving nominees

A meeting of the House of Representatives (HoR) held on Monday approved the names of 12 lawmakers to be included in the 15-member parliamentary Public Hearing Committee (PHC). The National Assembly (NA) also approved the names of three lawmakers to the committee. Nine members (seven from HoR and two from NA) are from the Nepal Communist Party, four (three from HoR and one from NA) from the main opposition Nepali Congress and one member each from Federal Socialist Forum-Nepal and Rastriya Janata Party-Nepal have been chosen to the PHC from among the 334 lawmakers of both Houses. Speaker Krishna Bahadur Mahara and NA Chairman Ganesh Timilsina separately announced the names of the lawmakers as per the recommendations made by chief whips of the respective parliamentary parties. The joint PHC will start its business after it elects its chair as per the parliamentary rules. The committee has been represented by the lawmakers of the parties with national status in Parliament.

This is a special joint parliamentary panel formed under Article 292 of the constitution. Its main role is to conduct public hearings and approve names of the nominee(s) for the post of chief justice and justices of the Supreme Court, members of the Judicial Council, chief and member(s) of the constitutional bodies and ambassador(s) as recommended by the Constitutional Council headed by the prime minister and the Judicial Council headed by the chief justice. As per the rules, the PHC cannot reject the name of any nominee for the given post proposed by the concerned authorities unless rejected by a two-thirds majority.

The practice of parliamentary public hearing was introduced in the Interim Constitution in 2007 so that best from amongst the best can be appointed to the above-mentioned positions. This is a new practice in Nepal which is uncommon in most parliamentary democracies. The main objective of this provision even in the new constitution is to make the concerned authorities – Constitutional Council and Judicial Council – more prudent and judicious while picking names for these positions, which are supposed to uphold rule of law and maintain good governance and transparency. However, the PHC has not been as effective as it should be. A general tendency of the PHC – looking at its practice for the past 11 years – is to grill a nominee for some time based on unnamed complaints lodged with it and finally approve the name(s) as per the wishes of the concerned authorities. PHC members can make the Constitutional Council and Judicial Council more accountable to Parliament and the sovereign people if they seriously scrutinise the nominee’s personal track records, professional integrity, academic qualification and his/her ability to perform their duties. The panel must also have the ability to judge if a nominee has any conflict of interest over a post s/he is supposed to hold. Undoubtedly, the PHC members represent the parties. They, however, must rise above partisan interests when it comes to giving approval to nominees recommended. PHC should also show its strength to reject the recommendations of the concerned authorities if it deems the candidate(s) unfit for the job.

Tackling child labour

Child labour is a serious social problem in Nepal. Poverty, lack of education, gender-based discrimination and social and cultural practices, among others, are major factors related to child labour and its consequences. In Nepal, over 1 million children aged 5-17 are still in child labour, and estimates suggest more than 600,000 are engaged in hazardous work. Of the total children in hazardous workplace, 60 per cent are girls.

Against this backdrop, a master plan for prevention of child labour is welcome news. The master plan has set the target of eliminating exploitative and worst form of child labour by 2022 and all types of child labour by 2025. When children are engaged in paid and unpaid forms of work, it deprives them of their childhood, their potential and their dignity and affects their physical, mental, social or educational development. The government must start by ensuring children’s fundamental rights of education and health as it aims to eliminate child labour, which is one of the most atrocious social evils. Child labour is a severe form of social injustice; it must end. Children’s destination should be school, not work.