KATHMANDU, Nov 26: President Bidya Bhandari has withheld an ordinance that seeks to amend the Constitutional Council Act 2010 following objection by the main opposition Nepali Congress (NC), which has accused the government of attempting to exclude the main opposition leader from a crucial decision-making process.
The existing act has a mandatory provision of taking decisions through consensus in the first meeting. However the council can take decisions through majority votes of members if there is no consensus on a proposal even in the second sitting.
According to Section 6 (5) of the act ‘each matter submitted at the meeting shall be decided unanimously’ by the council. However, sub-section 7 of the law states that the chairperson shall call next meeting on the same agenda to take decision and even if the meeting failed to forge consensus then, the decision shall be taken by majority votes of the total members of the council.
The cabinet meeting last week decided to issue an ordinance to amend the provision to allow the council to take decisions on the basis of majority from the first meeting itself without trying to forge consensus. If the amendment is passed, the majority of the six-member council can take any decision on any appointment from the first sitting through majority.
“The president’s office has received the ordinance a few days ago. The president is currently studying it,” said President Bhandari’s chief personal secretary Bhesraj Adhikari. However sources said that President Bhandari has been consulting experts on whether to issue the ordinance by ignoring the concerns of the main opposition party.
As the NC seeks to assert its role in the appointments at various constitutional bodies, the government decided to amend the law to allow the prime minister-headed council to make decisions without the consent of the main opposition leader Sher Bahadur Deuba.
“The council act was promulgated through political consensus in the pastand until now it has been making recommendations for appointments at various constitutional bodies through consensus. The government decision to amend the law to sideline the opposition leader from the decision-making process is objectionable,” said NC Chief Whip Balkrishna Khand.
Prime Minister, Chief Justice, National Assembly Chairperson, Speaker, Deputy Speaker and parliamentary party leader of the main opposition party are members in the council which is responsible for appointing heads and members in various constitutional bodies.
The government attempt to amend the council law comes at a time when the prime minister is planning to fill 39 vacant positions including heads and members at key constitutional bodies immediately after the November 30 by-polls.
“We have publicly opposed the ordinance and hope that the president, as a defender of the constitution, will act accordingly,” said Khand. The opposition party has threatened to launch protest in parliament if the ordinance is issued in its current form.