July 7, 2019 06:00 AM NPT
By: Ashok Dahal
KATHMANDU, July 7: With at least six key bills on hold in parliament following widespread criticisms, stakeholders and members of the general public are now asking what the government's next move will be .
Failing to sell various controversial provisions in the bills to a skeptical public, the government has announced it is to either withdraw or put them on hold for revisions as demanded by stakeholders. The government was forced to withdraw the Guthi (trusts) Bill from the House following widespread protests against various provisions in it.
Minister for Communication and Information Technology Gokul Baskota has put the Media Council Bill on hold at the upper house secretariat following protests and pressure from journalists and the media fraternity. The Federation of Nepali Journalists and other media related organizations have been protesting and demanding the withdrawal of the bill, citing its harsh provisions . The bill has proposed up to Rs 1 million in fines for publishing content in violation of a media code of ethics formulated by the media council on which the government has a dominant role. Its upper hand in the appointment of the head and members of the council has made stakeholders question its independence .
Former speaker and ruling Nepal Communist Party leader Subas Nembang on Friday said the government's not tabling the Media Council Bill for so long can only mean it has been put on hold in response to the demands of agitating journalists.
The Public Service Commission Bill, registered by the Prime Minister's Office six months ago at the lower house, has not been tabled, following written objections from the commission over various provisions curtailing its financial and bureaucratic autonomy. The commission has claimed that a provision in the bill allowing the government to transfer PSC staff without prior approval from the commission will affect it in sensitive areas such as the question-making process and confidentiality.
Similarly, the Ministry of Home Affairs has stalled the Peace and Security Bill which has irked provincial governments for assigning greater powers to the CDOs at the expense of provincial authorities. The bill has proposed empowering CDOs to mobilize all the security forces, order police to open fire for controlling violent protests and impose curfews in the district concerned. The federal government was forced to put the bill on hold after Chief Minister of Province 2 Lal Babu Raut warned of protests.
The government has also not tabled the Bill on National Priority Projects for over three months now after the opposition came down heavily on Prime Minister K P Oli for bringing in projects costing over Rs 25 billion under his direct supervision.
The Security Council Bill has likewise been stalled for three months after one of its provisions drew flak. The bill emanating from the Prime Minister's Office has proposed allowing the prime minister to mobilize the army without the endorsement of the Security Council and the president.
Following protests from the National Human Rights Commission, the prime minister has not tabled a bill for amending the law pertaining to it. The bill was registered at the lower house secretariat three months back. The human rights watchdog body objects to a provision in the bill proposes closing down its 10 regional and sub-regional offices and has expressed serious objection over another provision that gives the Attorney General's Office an upper hand in deciding whether or not to file cases against human rights violators when this recommended by the commission.
With six key bills either awaiting to be tabled or withdrawn from parliament and another 25 bills still under discussion at various parliamentary committees, the full house has little business at hand. According to Secretary at the House of Representatives Gopal Nath Yogi, the lower house has only five bills to deliberate now.
“Most of the bills are still under consideration. Some bills are yet to be tabled ,” said Yogi adding, the House may be left without any business if the parliamentary committees do not finalize some of the bills soon.
Bills related to pesticides and land use are ready for endorsement from the lower house after being passed by the upper house. The government plans to table three new bills at the lower house on Sunday. This is expected to provide business for the house for a week.