Feedback on statute

The biggest challenge for the CA and political parties is how they will accommodate the public opinion in the final draft of the constitution

Hundreds of thousands of people from across the country gave suggestions on the draft constitution on July 20 and 21 despite some disturbances by some fringe Madhes-based parties and others outside the Constituent Assembly. Some of the suggestions seem quite genuine while others have gone opposite to what had been agreed upon at the political level, the latest being the June 8 16-point agreement among the four major parties in particular and other past agreements in general. The CA full House had passed a 15-day calendar on July 9 to collect the public opinion on the draft constitution and the people gave their valued opinions on these two days. The CA Citizens Relations and Public Opinion Collection Committee, which organized the national campaign, said over 26,000 people gave their opinion on the draft through its website, e-mail, fax and toll-free number. The committee will analyse and classify the suggestions with the help of experts and submit its report to the CA chairman who will then assign the CA Constitutional Political-Dialogue and Consensus Committee (CPDCC) to reach consensus on the public opinion. Then, the CPDCC will submit its report to the Drafting Committee which will prepare a final draft of the constitution incorporating the public opinion.

Some of the notable suggestions coming from the public include holding direct elections for certain posts, from chief executive – president or prime minister – to ward chief; removing the proposed secularism; determining the names and boundaries of the federal units by the CA itself; removing the PR election system and down-sizing the strength of the proposed federal parliament and Pradesh Assembly; fixing education qualification of executive head and lawmakers and providing citizenship by descent only on the names of father and mother. The Supreme Court, the Nepali Army, Nepal Police, Armed Police Force, Nepal Bar Association, FNJ, constitutional bodies, NHRC and ethnic communities/groups also gave written suggestions to the CA Chair on the draft. They all were concerned about sectoral and institutional rights.

The national campaign of soliciting public opinion on the draft constitution was a success. Those parties which created obstructions on the campaign did not do justice to their own communities whom they claim to represent in the CA. They would have their views recorded with the CA members had the disgruntled parties not created any obstructions. The Madhesi parties themselves denied the right of their own communities to air views on the constitution. As collecting feedback from the public is over, the responsibility of the CPDCC and the Drafting Committee is to respect the people’s views and incorporate them in the final draft of the constitution. A majority of the public opinion, for example, seems to have gone in favour of direct election of the chief executive which is opposite to the 16-point deal that has agreed on giving continuity to parliamentary democracy. The biggest challenge for the CA and political parties is how they will accommodate the public opinion in the final draft of the constitution.

Land mess

There has been a free-for-all in land transactions, with brokers too many — too many to track down – in cases of cheating, for tax purposes and so on – too many without any training or qualification for the job and without any office whatever. Many ply the land broker business as a part time job, and some do it on full-time basis. Similarly, land plotting is also done by all and sundry who can manage to acquire some land, even one ropani or more.

The budget for the current fiscal year seeks to remedy the land-plotting mess by requiring land-plotters to fulfil certain legal requirements. This is a positive development. Similarly, all and sundry should not be allowed to act as land brokers, because a free-for-all has led to many people being cheated in the country. Therefore, to ensure transparency and accountability of the land transactions, prevent buyers and sellers from being short-changed, and to increase income tax revenue, only those who are registered and fulfil certain criteria like receiving related training should be allowed to enter the fray.