Today marks the third year of the promulgation of the Constitution of Nepal, the first-ever document that was drafted by the people’s representatives through the historic Constituent Assembly (CA).
This is the first constitution of the country whose essence is realized by the members of public. “The Constitution of Nepal-2072 BS” embraces the inclusiveness and proportional representation and federalism as its salient features.
Senior advocate Dr Chandra Kanta Gyawali said that the constitution that secures the welfare of the people is the real constitution of Nepal.
“This is the first constitution that guarantees people’s supremacy which is also the best in the eyes of public” said Dr Gyawali, adding, “People have full ownership over the national statute.”
According to him, the earlier six constitutions were not meant for citizens but would favour the rulers and protect their reign. He added, “Although the 1990’s constitution was said to guarantee the people’s supremacy, Kings were granted the ruling power.”
Nepal Bar Association President Sher Bahadur KC argued, “This new constitution was promulgated after a long struggle. It was promulgated through very progressive practice and is exemplary.”
KC was of the confidence that if the new national charter would be enforced effectively, development, peace and human rights would be ensured.
According to him, the new constitution incorporates fundamental rights relating to health, accommodation, food rights and women rights. He pressed for effective implementation of the new constitution by holding three-tiers elections by January, 2018.
Advocate Shanti Khanal sees the constitution as Nepal’s historic main law. “It is the best constitution in Nepal’s history of constitution. It has guaranteed rights of all including Nepali women, ethnic groups, indigenous nationalities, Madhesi and minorities. All political parties should commit to enforcing it,” she said.
The constitution incorporates the provisions for seven-province federal setup, and federal democratic republic governance system, while dictating that sovereignty and a form of governance will remain within the people.
Likewise, vote of no confidence motion cannot be brought against prime minister until his or her two years in office, and PM elected through Parliament will become the executive head of the country.
There will be 275 members in the House of Representatives (165 from the first-past-the-post system, and 110 from proportional representation).
Other features of the constitution include provisions of secularism, mixed electoral systems—the first-past-the-post system, and proportional representation, bicameral system, the issuance of a citizenship certificate through mother’s name, establishment of separate commissions for backward communities like Madhesi, Tharu, Muslim, and indigenous nationalities, and the use of Nepali as an official language.
The constitution provisions that up to 25-member cabinet shall be formed, there shall be unicameral parliament in province, and 550 lawmakers in the total seven provinces.
Nepal’s constitutional history
“The Government of Nepal Act -2004 BS” is the first written document in the country’s constitutional history, but it was neither issued nor implemented.
”The Interim Government of Nepal Act-2007 BS” came after the 2004’s declaration, also turned meaningless.
”The Constitution of the Kingdom of Nepal-2015 BS” was written with the help of foreign legal experts and had granted executive rights to the king and the Prime Minister had just a ceremonial presence.
“The Constitution of Nepal- 2019 BS” that was brought when the party-less Panchayat System was in the practice in the country was replaced by the 1990’s constitution. This constitution (2019 BS) implemented by the then King Mahendra Shah had guaranteed the direct rule of the king. It was revised thrice.
“The Constitution of the Kingdom of Nepal-1990” that came following the success of the people’s movement was based on the principles of multi-party system and constitutional monarchy. Though it had mentioned that sovereignty rest on the citizens and was considered as the ‘best’ constitution of so far at the time, it failed to serve the people’s interests to a greater extent.
The country suffered the constitutional vacuum from October 4, 2002 to January 17, 2007 as the then royal king Gyanendra Shah dissolved the people’s elected parliament to draw power from the people. Finally, the 2006 People’s Movement came out as a result of such ‘unpopular’ decision of the king finally succeeded in overthrowing the 240-year-old monarchy from the country to become a ‘federal democratic republican state’.
Nepal got the “Interim Constitution-2007” on January 17, 2007 which had incorporated the provisions for promulgating the constitution from the Constituent Assembly, carrying out the restructuring of the State and having three-level governance system with the adaptation of federal and inclusive policies. Though this constitution was for the provisional use, it had paved away for holding the CA elections. Though it took around eight years to promulgate the constitution, despite four years as announced, the majority Nepali citizens )though some groups including the Madhesis have expressed dissatisfaction over it) had celebrated the moment of the constitution promulgation. Now responsibility lies on political parties to implement it, by addressing the voices of dissenting groups and to prove its meaning.