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Nepal: Sushil Koirala Roundly criticised for inertia in Government: Update No 296

Note No. 717                                             Dated 19-May-2014

By Dr. S.Chandrasekharan

It was no surprise that in the parliamentary meeting of the Nepali Congress held at the PM’s residence on 3rd May, a large number of members roundly criticised PM Sushil Koirala for not exercising the PM’s power fully and for creating an inertia in the government by not taking decisions in time. Mr. Koirala is not seen to have been moved by the internal criticisms levelled against him.

The Nepali Congress should be aware by this time that the people who voted for them and the UML are getting disappointed and angry.

The complaints specifically were on the following.

* Failure of the cabinet to nominate 26 members to the Constituent Assembly.
* Failure to make appointments in the National Planning Commission
* Failure and delay in making constitutional appointments.
* Delay in making political appointments including his own consultants.
* Internally not holding elections for forming the working committee.

The Speakers were generally critical of Koirala’s work Style.

Of these, failure to fill up the 26 vacancies in the Constituent Assembly is the most serious one.  Fed up with the delay, one of the Parliamentarians went to the Supreme Court for orders to expedite the appointments.  So on 15th May, the Supreme Court not only ordered the government to nominate individuals for the 26 vacancies within fifteen days  but also gave detailed instructions on the type of persons to be chosen and the qualifications that need to be looked into in appointing such members. 

Appointment to the 26 vacancies falls clearly within the purview of the government where the Court has nothing to say or interfere unless there had been a miscarriage of justice or wrong and wilful mis interpretation of the rules.  But when the government failed to fill up the vacancies even after six months of the elections, one cannot blame the Supreme Court for its “over reach.”

The Supreme Court rightly lamented that the CA remained incomplete even after six months and maintained that it had a historic responsibility.  The thrust was that when the Government fails in its responsibility, the Supreme Court has no alternative but to intervene.  Now with the Supreme Court’s directive to fill up in fifteen days, the CA will have no alternative but come to an understanding with all the stake holders!

What is worse, the Supreme Court has given broad directions as- how to go about to make the selection!  Those who lost the elections in the “First Past the Post System” and the Proportional Representation systems are not to be considered for the posts.  Secondly the Court defined the term ‘ distinguished persons’- as the ones who had acquired special position in the field of history, culture, law, industry, media, education, social service, bureaucracy among others whose contribution will be useful in constitution writing.  Among the indigenous groups the Supreme Court specifically said that preference should be given to nominate those disadvantaged from among the indigenous groups.  Finally the government in choosing the persons for the 26 vacancies should specify reasons for recommending the names of those who have contributed significantly to the nation.

It is a shame that the Government is treated  like school children  to be lectured on the procedure and the qualifications needed to fill up the vacancies in the Constituent Assembly!

The Government is also seen to be getting into another constitutional controversy over the appointment of eight permanent judges to the Supreme Court.  The Judicial Council had according to existing provisions had recommended the names on 8th of May which in the normal circumstances should have been passed.  Instead some party members have suddenly become suspicious and have found flaws in the recommendations.  The Public Hearing Special Committee (PHSC) has summoned the members of the Judiciary Council to seek some clarifications.  The Judicial Council has not responded despite two reminders and it will become a major constitutional issue unless the PHSC backs down.

Another issue on which the government is seen to have backed down is in holding the local elections by June.  Bom Dev Gautam the Home Minister has now declared that the elections will take place only after the promulgation of the new constitution.  This was expected as Koirala is not so far seen to be taking any firm and decisive decisions. !

One good development is that the President has approved the transitional justice bill on 11th of May thus paving the way for the formation of the commission for investigation of enforced disappearances and the “Truth and Reconciliation Commission”  Already, some political leaders have expressed the view that the bill is flawed.  It is hoped that better sense woud prevail and the government goes about seriously on the bill that has become an Act now.

A small beginning has also been made in the CA in dealing with the thematic issues produced by the committees on the constitution.  Discussions have begun on the subject of a. Natural resources and Economic Rights and Revenue sharing and b. National interests protection Committee.

So far so good, but the real contentious issues are yet to be discussed.