Kathmandu, May 15
The main opposition Nepali Congress today demanded that the government withdraw from Parliament three bills that contradicted the constitution.
The NC also threatened to mobilise its power both in the Parliament and outside if the government tried to pass the Media Council Bill, National Human Rights Commission Bill and National Security Bill without amendment.
A meeting of the NC parliamentary party held at Singha Durbar today concluded that the three bills, if enacted as laws, would curtail the freedom of expression and freedom of press, undermine human rights, weaken civil rights and render National Security Council and Nepali Army ineffective.
“The government should withdraw these bills from the Parliament,” said NC Chief Whip Bal Krishna Khand after the parliamentary party meeting. “Or else, the government will have to face the NC’s resistance.”
The bill regarding the constitution of the Nepal Media Council proposes to impose a fine of up to Rs 1 million on media outlets, editors, publishers and journalists if they are found guilty of damaging someone’s reputation.
Section 18 (1) of the new bill stipulates that if any media publish content in contravention of the code of conduct and if an investigation launched after the affected party’s complaint finds that such news content damaged the reputation of the complainant, then the council can impose a fine between Rs 25,000 and Rs 1 million on media outlets, publishers, editors, journalists and reporters.
Section 18, Sub-section (2) of the bill stipulates that the council can order the erring parties to pay compensation if the content in media damages the reputation of the affected party.
Section 17 of the bill proposes to suspend press pass of mediapersons and downgrade the classification of the concerned print media outlet for violating the code of conduct.
The bill also proposes to form a committee under a government secretary to recommend to the chairperson of Nepal Media Council, which the NC says will relegate the Nepal Media Council to a branch of the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology.
The bill to amend the National Human Rights Commission Act proposes to give more discretionary powers to the attorney general on the NHRC’s recommendations seeking prosecution of human rights violators.
The bill proposes that the NHRC should make recommendations for filing court cases to the Office of the Attorney General. The bill states that if the AG tells the NHRC to conduct further probe into certain cases, the latter should comply with the order. The bill also states that the AG will have the authority to take a final call on filing cases against alleged human rights violators after analysing additional evidence submitted by the NHRC.
“The new bill has removed words ‘autonomous’ and ‘independent’ from the preamble of NHRC Act in a bid to bring it under the Office of the Attorney General,” states the NC.
The Security Council Bill has put in place provisions allowing the prime minister to mobilise the army at his own discretion. The bill provisions that the National Security Council chairman (the prime minister) can mobilise army if the council fails to meet due to some unforeseen circumstances.
However, the NC states that no situation of national emergency can be imagined that will not allow the council to meet. It says the provision also means that army mobilisation decision can be taken without involving the army’s leadership, severely undermining the institution. “This bill can result in serious consequences from the national security perspective,” said Khand.
A version of this article appears in print on May 16, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.