Interpretation confusion

Apropos of the news report “Govt ignoring parliamentary panels” (THT, November 17, Page 1), continuing difficulty of interpreting Nepal’s constitution is apparent even in the statements of parliamentary spokespersons and constitutional experts. Parliamentary Secretariat Spokesperson Rojnath Pandey was quoted in the report as saying that “the government should obey the directives issued by parliamentary committees” and that having not done this was against the democratic norms. This is a misinterpretation of the parliamentary procedure and powers as outlined in the Nepali constitution. A parliamentary committee, formed under Article 97 of the constitution, does not have legislative or “law-making” powers. Such committees are created by Parliament to assist in the process of researching and amending Bills for both the Houses to debate and vote on. If a committee were able to legislate, this would be an action against parliamentary procedure. The usual procedure is for such committees to hold hearings and report to the legislature as a whole, for debate in both Houses. Acts of Parliament (primary legislation) usually empowers a minister of state, or possibly a municipal authority, to make subsidiary legislation to effect the overriding purpose of the legislature as is contained in the Acts of Parliament. In the same report, parliamentary expert and former secretary of Parliament, Som Bahadur Thapa, states that “In European countries… the government obeys nearly all directives of the parliament and its committees”. This is inaccurate. The executive branch of government must obey all statute laws passed by Parliament. If need be, this is enforceable through the courts. However, Parliamentary committees do not legislate, as this would be unconstitutional, and so the comments of parliamentary committees are not binding directives on any institution. Therefore according to the Constitution of Nepal and the constitutional parallels it draws on from other parliamentary systems, parliamentary committees have no authority to legislate.

Lotta Behrens and Ruth Butterworth, University of Law, London

Air insurance

Apropos of the news story “Montreal Convention comes into effect today” (THT, December 15, Page 1), this development comes as a whiff of fresh air. Passengers on Nepal’s 28 airlines can now fly in and out of the country fully assured that in the eventuality of a crash their families will receive compensation as per the international standard. Whenever I fly, I am tortured by the thought of a handout of beggarly 20,000 dollars insurance payment that my family will receive in the eventuality of a crash. This money is peanuts considering Nepal’s skyrocketing inflation. The Convention will put all such worries of the flying passengers to rest. Now people can fly in peace assured that their death in a plane crash will not rob their immediate families of the lifeline of economic security. The government needs to apply such convention on the helicopter and other domestic flights as well.

Manohar Shrestha, Kathmandu