When the constitution was promulgated on September 20, 2015 amidst the most difficult circumstances, the framers had also wisely ensured its implementation within the stipulated timeframe. The constitution came into effect on September 20 that year, replacing the Interim Constitution 2007 and all other laws that existed until that time. The new constitution guaranteed a number of rights to the people as fundamental rights (total of 31) and clearly mentioned what the state should do to ensure that citizens get to exercise those rights. Article (47) therefore clearly mentioned: “for the enforcement of [the fundamental rights], the State shall make legal provisions, as required, within three years of the commencement of this constitution.” We should have had all the laws in place by now. But even as we are only two weeks from meeting that constitutionally mandated deadline, the government has not been able to formulate a single law to ensure implementation of the fundamental rights. This raises the question on commitment of framers of the constitution (including the party now in opposition) to effectively implement the charter that the country got after 70 years of relentless struggle.
Fifteen bills related to the implementation of fundamental rights have either been just tabled in the parliament or have just been forwarded to various parliamentary committees. And most of the parliamentary committees have not held even a single meeting to discuss such bills because these committees are still headless. Even more troubling will be the absence of Speaker of the House of Representative Krishna Bahadur Mahara at such crucial times. He will be leaving for China on a five-day visit from September 7, leaving the pressing business of the parliament behind, for in his absence the House meeting cannot be convened. There is only around a week’s time left for parliamentary meetings before September 19. It will be difficult for the parliament to deliberate on all 15 bills and enact them into laws within this short period of time. Assuming that parliament will succeed, it will have little time for clause-wise discussions, as a result of which our legislature might end up drafting laws that will be open to controversy.
This utter negligence on the most vital constitutional duty cannot be acceptable. First, our leaders knew from day one of constitution promulgation that laws related to fundamental rights had to be enacted by September 19, 2018 for they themselves had set that deadline. Second, they know perfectly well that without enacting necessary laws, implementing the constitution will be impossible. For this dereliction of duty, however, all major parties are responsible. After the constitution promulgation, Nepali Congress, CPN-UML and Maoist Center (now Nepal Communist Party) led the government in turn. But formulating necessary laws did not become their priorities. Now, two of the major parties at the time of constitution promulgation are at the helm. The onus lies on the ruling party to ensure that required laws will be in place by September 19 and the achievements of hard-earned constitution preserved. Not a moment to lose for the government.
As things stand, the government, the parliament and the major political parties have created a situation where these bills crucial for the general public are going to be endorsed through a so-called fast-track process under the pretext of time constraints. These are the same political forces who have endorsed several key laws and taken various other important political decisions in the last hour without holding proper deliberations in the parliament, let alone in public forums. The practice of endorsing key laws and policies suspending parliamentary rules mustn’t be given continuity in the legislature.