EDITORIAL: Summon the House

Delaying House session only because there is lack of preparation on the part of govt undermines parliamentary supremacy

A few days ago reports had surfaced that the government had directed some ministries to work on ordinances, which had set off alarm bells among many, for ordinances are not the way to govern when there is parliament in place. The government has been under fire for failing to bring some umbrella laws without which provincial governments’ functioning has been hugely impacted. The second session of the federal Parliament was prorogued on September 28. Now there are no signs of summoning the winter session before December-end. As per sources at the Parliament Secretariat, there is lack of preparation on the part of the government, particularly on some necessary bills, hence the government may take some time to summon the House session.

The above two instances—preparation of ordinances and delay in calling the House—do not go well with parliamentary democracy. Periodic elections, regular parliament sessions, debates and discussions on bills and timely enactment of laws strengthen democracy and establish rule of law. But the government’s lackadaisical approach in preparing the required bills and reluctance to face the House are undermining the principle of parliamentary democracy. Nepal has come a long way in the last two decades; the country has sacrificed a lot to achieve political stability. Adoption of a new constitution in 2015 and elections last year to form governments at three levels under the principle of federalism were major milestones. To ensure conformity with the constitution, 339 laws were needed to be amended or removed by March 5. But so far only 194 laws have been amended. Disputes between the federal government and provincial governments have arisen because the Centre has failed to bring necessary umbrella laws. And going by the snail-paced work on preparing bills, further delay is likely when it comes to bringing new laws.

These are not good signs as the country is on its way to implement the constitution and strengthen federalism. The government while has miserably failed on many other fronts, it has not been able to prepare necessary bills. And to avoid criticism, it does not seem to be in mood to face the House. The principle of our constitution lays stress on parliamentary supremacy. It makes our Parliament the supreme legal authority, which makes or repeals any law. But for a fully and effectively functioning parliament, the executive—the government—needs to provide business; it must regularly feed the House important bills which can go through serious deliberations for a logical outcome in the form of laws. Parliament is where lawmakers can air their views on different national issues; it’s the place where government and the opposition come face to face on pressing matters. These are essential for ensuring accountability and transparency. That’s why parliamentary supremacy is considered the most important part of our constitution. But the way the government has been acting—at times by trying to introduce ordinances and now delaying the House session—it may force many to perceive that there is a deliberate attempt to weaken parliamentary system. Such moves will be against the constitution. The government must call the House session at the earliest.

Utter negligence

It has been more than three and a half years since the 2015 earthquake struck the country, leaving nearly 9,000 people dead and damaging around 800,000 individual houses across the country. However, the data maintained by the National Reconstruction Authority (NRA) reveal only 33 per cent of the individual houses have been built so far. In some districts, Nawalparasi for example, the pace of rebuilding has been even slower than in other districts.

Of the total 872 quake victims in the district only 173 (20 per cent) families have received the third tranche. Others are still waiting for the final tranche. Rajendra Karki, chief of NRA District Project Implementation Unit, said they could not provide the third tranche due to lack of technicians who could provide training to masons on building quake-resistant houses. It is his irresponsible statement. What was he doing over the last three-and-a-half years? It shows the reconstruction works have failed not because of lack of fund but because of sheer negligence of the NRA’s local unit. Such officials deserve actions for failing to carry out their duties effectively.