Proclamation 2006 : A part of interim constitution

The people’s movement came at the speed of a hurricane, but the government formed thereafter is moving like a slow motion picture. Most of the time has been wasted in forming the cabinet, which is not yet complete. The people are aghast at the long size of the cabinet (such a size is formed generally during normal times), which is hardly required at this critical juncture.

The main issue of bringing the Maoists to the political mainstream appears to have been pushed to the background while the formation of the cabinet gained priority. However, negotiating teams of three representatives each was announced from both the sides and have concluded the preliminary peace negotiations by announcing a code of conduct. As a matter of fact, a small cabinet of a few ministers would have been sufficient for the time being as the cabinet could have expanded with the inclusion of the Maoists. To some, the mindset and behaviour of the coalition partners of the seven-party alliance have not yet changed, as they seem to have not learnt any lessons from the past.

The reinstated House of Representatives (HoR) made the historic proclamation on May 18, 2006, and established the sovereignty of the HoR, which will exercise the executive power of the state till a new constitution is made for establishing a full-fledged democracy on the strength of the mass uprising of April 24, 2006. The people’s movement has empowered the HoR to formulate laws and determine the process of elections to a constituent assembly.

In reality, the Proclamation is a nine-article interim constitution having a specific preamble providing clear guidelines to the House of Representatives. The Article 1 provides that the present HoR will exercise all legislative powers. The House will determine the process of making laws. The Article 2 provides that all executive powers of the state are vested in the council of ministers. His Majesty’s Government will now be called as the Government of Nepal. The Article 3 provides for change in the nomenclature of the Army, as the Royal Nepalese Army will be called as Nepali Army henceforth. The chief of the Army will be appointed by the council of ministers and the provision for supreme commander-in-chief of the Army has been done away with. The structure of the Army would be made inclusive having a national character.

The Article 4 provides for removing the existing provision of Raj Parishad in the constitution and it stands cancelled forthwith. The Article 5 provides for empowering the HoR to make laws related to the heir to the throne. The HoR will decide the budget and other facilities of the king. The income and the personal property of the king will now come under the net of taxation. The king’s actions can be challenged in any court of law and by the HoR as well. The security of the palace will be arranged by the council of ministers. The existing palace service will form part of the civil service.

The Article 6 provides assurance for early solution to the long-standing issue of citizenship. Similarly, Article 7 provides for replacing the national anthem with another one. The Article 9 is related to miscellaneous subjects, such as all constitutional organs and bodies have been empowered by this HoR. All those holding the position of public offices have to take the oath of office at the HoR, failing which their services will stand terminated.

The most significant and vital provision is that all those provisions of the Constitution of 1990, which are against the provisions of this proclamation, stand null and void. The proclamation has out rightly rejected Article 127 of the 1990 Constitution and this Article has been replaced by a new one, which is in line with all the democratic constitutions in the world. It provides that any obstacle coming on the way of execution of this proclamation will be removed by the decision taken by the HoR.

The historic declaration would have been better termed as a part of the interim constitution, which is in the process of being made. Since some provisions were required immediately to meet the urgent needs of the country, the interim constitution has been proclaimed. The dialogue process with the Maoists has already begun. There may be an interim government in coalition with the Maoists, and the interim constitution will obtain its completion only after the views of the Maoists are incorporated in the interim constitution.

The Proclamation 2006 as an interim constitution would have been a daring act, as it could have rejected entirely the 1990 Constitution. No doubt, it is naturally a painful act to detach or depart from any possession like the Constitution of 1990, which is a creation of the people’s movement of 1990. But at critical moments like the present one, it becomes strategic to do away with the existing possessions without repenting for them in the best interest of all those who are claiming to bring about a drastic transformation in the days to come.

Prof Mishra is ex-election commissioner