Nepalese Parliament in swan-song - interim House with Maoist members

Released on = January 24, 2007, 3:46 am

Press Release Author = DMA

Industry = Government

Press Release Summary = At 8.25 p.m. on January 15, 2007, the Parliament of Nepal
dissolved themselves after a marathon day-long debate which accorded approval to the
Interim Constitution finalized in accordance with the agreement of Nov. 8, 2006.

Press Release Body = At 8.25 p.m. on January 15, 2007, the Parliament of Nepal
consisting of the Pratinidhi Sabha elected in May 1999 and the dormant Rashtriya
Sabha (National Assembly), the lower and upper houses of Parliament of Nepal,
respectively, dissolved themselves after a marathon day-long debate which accorded
approval to the Interim Constitution finalized in accordance with the agreement of
Nov. 8, 2006.

Half an hour later, at 9 p. m. the interim parliament met at the same venue, but
this time with a new composition, the main feature of which was the presence of
83 members of the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoists) who are supposed to have
abandoned the gun in favour of Parliamentary democracy.

Nepal thus commenced its penultimate march towards a probable republican polity, a
giant leap forward from the days of militancy launched by the Maoists since
Feb.13 1996, which had seen the death of 13,000 young men and women of Nepal in a
no-holds-barred orgy of violence aimed at establishing a people\'s democracy a la the
Peoples Republic of China. The guns are silent now and according to the \"peace
agreement\" between the seven-party alliance in power at the moment and the Maoists
on Nov. 22, 2006, these arms are to be surrendered to United Nations-supervised
agencies. This process is expected to be completed by the end of January, and then
the Maoists who had been \"eliminating\" class enemies will sit along with them and
occupy ministerial offices, abiding by the law of the land and no longer wielding
the guns.

The new 330-member House, which includes those who were earlier members of the
Pratinidhi Sabha and the Rashtriya Sabha, plus the un-elected Maoists, plus 48 other
un-elected members distributed among the eight parties (including the Maoists), has
been charged with the task of holding elections for the Constituent Assembly which
will draft the ultimate Constitution, Nepal\'s seventh since 1948.

This election is scheduled to be held by the end of May this year, just before the
monsoon sets in, and that House will draft Nepal\'s new Constitution. That House will
have 425 members. However, before taking up the task of getting the Constitution
drafted, the first session of the Constituent Assembly, will decide on the fate of
the monarchy. From January 16 onwards, the precise status of the monarchy is a bit
uncertain, because the interim Constitution adopted on the night of Jan.15, vests
the Prime Minister with powers of a dictator, as he had himself stated a number of
times and the agreement of Nov.8 has ruled out any role for the King in the
administration of the country.

The House sat up to 11 in the night on Jan.15 to meet again on January 17, after
observing a day\'s holiday on Jan.16, but even before it adjourned, the Maoists
managed to create problems by demanding that the office of the Speaker should be
awarded to them. This was not agreed upon and one might see some fireworks on this
issue on Jan.17.

However, Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala, addressing outgoing House in the
evening of Jan.15, had asserted that he would continue to fight for democracy till
the last, a task to which he had devoted sixty years of his life (since the struggle
against Ranas was launched about the time India had become Independent). Whether
this was a warning to the Maoists or rivals in other political parties it was not
clear from reports on the internet, but it is a fact that \"Girija Babu\", while ready
for compromise, had never succumbed to the pressure exerted by the Maoists since May
2006 when he had been appointed the Prime Minister on conclusion of the Jana Andolan
(People\'s Movement II of April 2006).

Incidentally, one does shed a tear or two for the \"Constitution of the Kingdom of
Nepal,1990\" promulgated by the Late King Birendra on Nov.10 1990 six months after
the success of Jana Andolan I of April 1990 that had overthrown the ill-conceived
but somewhat long-lasting Panchayat Constitution promulgated by the Late King
Mahendra on December 16,1962.

Except for the fact that the 1990 Constitution had provided for a Constitutional
Monarchy and had kept most of the traditional powers enjoyed by the monarchy intact,
this was a truly democratic Constitution. It had transferred the sovereignty of the
country to the people from the Crown. It had several positive features, one of which
was the provision that while the Constitution itself could be amended by moving
bills under Article 116, the preamble of the Constitution which provided for a
multi-party Constitutional monarchy with parliamentary democracy, could not be

It however, had a major flaw in Article 127, which gave total leeway to the monarchy
to introduce any measure on the ground of seeking to \"remove obstacles\" in
implementation of the Constitution. All the undemocratic acts committed by King
Gyanendra such as dissolution the Pratinidhi Sabha on May 22, 2002, dismissal of the
Sher Bahadur Deuba Government on Oct.4, 2002 and then the dismissal of his second
government on Feb.1, 2005 and installation of a puppet regime in its place in order
to take on the violent movement by the Maoists, were committed with Article 127 as
the \"Constitutional shield\", as it were.

While welcoming the latest developments in Nepal, one cannot but mention, purely as
an academic exercise, nevertheless, whether the revival of the Pratinidhi Sabha
(House of Representatives) on April 24, 2006, by the King, was a valid
Constitutional procedure according to the 1990 Constitution. It has to be remembered
that till Jan.14, 2007, this Constitution was in force, The Pratinidhi Sabha,
constituted in early 1999 after general elections, was dissolved by King Gyanendra
on the recommendation of the Prime Minister (Article 53(4) of the 1990
Constitution), and the Supreme Court of Nepal had endorsed it. An appeal against
that judgment was never heard, and so the original verdict remained valid.

However, even then, according to Article 45(3) of this Constitution the life of the
Pratinidhi Sabha had expired five years after it was constituted on or about May 15,
2004. How come this \"dead House\" could be revived? But then, as Prime Minister
Koirala had told Supreme Court Advocates who had raised this issue, the \"Jana
Andolan\" had a bigger force than laws enacted earlier, and had asked the agitated
lawyers to lie low. The only important point in this debate is that legal luminaries
in Nepal did raise this issue and it is to their credit that they remained vigilant
even under such trying situations.

Even as legal formalities appear to have been taken care of, the new government\'s
main task will be to ensure that the country prospers economically. The abject
poverty of the masses, avenues of employed largely confined to migration to Indian
cities and industrial units, and the very real division between the \"Madhesis\" and
the \"Pahadis\" which has manifested now with violence being resorted to for the first
time by the \"meek Teraiwallas\" are major problems for the new government to be

Web Site =

Contact Details = Shouvik Mukherjee
J-1824, LGF, CR Park,
New Delhi-110019


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