The parliament’s winter session, which is also taken as the bills session, has commenced on Wednesday. The first meeting of the legislature drew attention of many as key leaders from ruling as well as opposition parties addressed the House raising some serious issues for debate. Leader of the main opposition Nepali Congress and former Prime Minister, Sher Bahadur Deuba, fiercely criticized the government for its failure to bring the culprit(s) of Nirmala Panta’s rape and murder case to book and for not amending Medical Education Bill as per the agreement reached with Dr Govinda KC. Another former Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai and a leader of Rastriya Janata Party Nepal (RJPN) Rajendra Mahato, among other lawmakers, strongly voiced their concerns in the legislature. Co-chair of ruling Nepal Communist Party (NCP) Pushpa Kamal Dahal, addressing the same meeting, tried to allay some concerns while spending most of his time in defense of the government. In a democracy, parliament is a platform for the lawmakers to raise people’s concerns and some of the leaders have done exactly that.
But the lawmakers also need to pay attention to other equally important undertakings. There are a number of urgent businesses that the legislature must accomplish in the next couple of months. One major task for the House is to amend over 170 laws or provisions to make them compatible with the letter and spirit of the new constitution. It must be done by March 5. The government, so far, has prepared and forwarded only a few bills to the parliament. Also, some other bills pending from previous sessions are gathering dust in the parliament. After strong objection from media fraternity, civil society and independent experts, the government had earlier agreed to amend some objectionable provisions of newly-introduced Muluki Code that sought to curtail media freedom. But it hasn’t done so. Dismayed by government insincerity toward implementing the agreements reached with him in the past, Dr Govinda KC has already issued ultimatum to start 16th fast-unto-death within next couple of days. Last week, he reminded the government about his ultimatum as the government didn’t table the Medical Education Bill in the first meeting of the parliament. Provincial governments are at loggerheads with the federal government mainly due to lack of clarity on various issues including their jurisdiction. Such issues can be settled only by formulating proper laws from the parliament. Concerns raised by Madhes-based parties on constitution amendment also have to be addressed. Lawmakers have a lot to do in this winter session.
This is why both the government and the parliament need to work seriously this time. Our leaders don’t start work on serious issues when there is sufficient time. In the past, both the executive as well as legislature have been criticized for not holding proper debates on the bills, even those related to serious laws. They often table such bills and endorse them through fast-track process even by skipping some crucial parliamentary procedures. The ongoing parliament session mustn’t repeat this bad practice. All the bills—whether related to amending any law or formulation of new laws—must be thoroughly discussed and endorsed through due process. The winter session brings to our lawmakers a lot of works to do. They would be praised if they succeed in accomplishing them.