Welcome change

The government has said that it is preparing to make a change in the Civil Service Regulations 1993 and give the government employees the right to association for their individual professional advancement rather than ‘for indulging in party politics.’ Two months ago the government had amended Clauses 52 and 53 of the Civil Service Act 1992, thereby banning government employees from forming associations for whatever purpose. The government conceded this much in a written reply to the Supreme Court’s show cause notice asking it to clarify the reasons why it had curtailed the employees’ right to association. The apex court is hearing a writ filed on behalf of the Nepal Government Employees’ Organisation on the grounds that the amendment had violated government employees’ constitutionally guaranteed right to association and to freedom.

This willingness for concession implies that the government is aware that it is on a shaky legal ground. But doubts remain over its intention, given so many of its moves to curtail fundamental freedoms. The government, which lacks the people’s mandate, has no authority to make far-reaching changes, all the more so those conflicting with the letter and spirit of the Constitution. Its job, by virtue of its lameduck character, is to hand over power to the elected peoples representatives without delay.

It must be admitted that the bureaucracy has often shown itself to be influenced by political agenda rather than by its duty to serve the public in a neutral manner. Government leaders, whether of political parties or of non-party hue, make policies, but it is the duty of the civil servants to implement them without favour or prejudice. By this measure, the recent remarks by the chief secretary, Lokman Singh Karki, that he would not cooperate with those who do not support the King are highly objectionable. The public impression of our bureaucracy is far from positive, given its indulgence in corruption, red-tapism, and its neglect of people’s problems and needs. While these areas need to be improved, the right to association cannot be denied or tampered with.