Experts slam Speaker for telling House panels not to obstruct govt

Published On: September 17, 2019 06:53 AM NPT By: Republica  | @RepublicaNepal

KATHMANDU, Sept 17: House of Representatives  Speaker Krishna Bahadur Mahara has drawn sharp criticism from constitutional and legal experts for cautioning parliamentary committees against engaging in any activities or issuing any directives that obstruct the functioning of the government. 

Addressing the inaugural session of an interaction program on parliamentary exercise organized in the capital Monday by parliament, Speaker Mahara said that the role of the parliamentary committees was just to oversee or observe the activities of the government. 

Recalling  complaints made to him by Prime Minister KP Oli that the parliamentary committees had caused unnecessary obstructions in the functioning of the government, Speaker Mahara said lawmakers and the parliamentary committees should not  act in ways that affect such functionings. 
Experts have termed Mahara’s remarks  unbecoming of a speaker of parliament in a democratic system.

“The attempt of the speaker to render parliament in its entirety including the parliamentary committees complacent toward the government shows that his role as speaker has not been impartial. Such a role is not in line with the constitution,” said senior advocate Bipin Adhikari. 

Adhikari argued that it is regular parliamentary practice for parliamentary committees to issue directives to the government if the latter fails to comply with existing rules and regulations. “The government should not seek a parliament that is in lockstep with it. That would be tantamount to becoming unanswerable to the people,” he further said. 

While addressing the function, Speaker Mahara disclosed that he had even proposed to Prime Minister Oli to talk directly to the parliamentary committee chiefs. “Prime Minister Oli has been complaining to me that the parliamentary committees had put the government in difficulties, “ Mahara said, adding, “But when I proposed to him to sit down with the committee chiefs and talk to them,  he asked me to talk to them myself.”  

Mahara was of the opinion that the role of the parliamentary committees was, as he put it,  to just provide necessary consultations and suggestions in order to take the government along a right track instead of obstructing its work.  

There are a total of 10 parliamentary committees under the House of Representatives and four under the National Assembly. Two other parliamentary committees are joint committees of both houses. 

Experts have taken strong exception to such sentiments coming from the prime minister, especially as only two of the parliamentary committees—Public Accounts Committee and the Committee on Sustainable Development -- are headed by the main opposition party Nepali Congress (NC). They argue that leaning on the parliamentary committees not to issue any directives over the functioning of the government is calculated to stifle any voices opposing the government.

Constitutional expert and senior advocate Bhimarjun Acharya expressed concern over the fate of democracy itself if the speaker of parliament himself directs the parliamentary committees not to do anything that goes against the government’s moves. 

“The main function of the parliamentary committees is to oversee the government’s activities and check these when needed. It is unfortunate if any attempt is being made to curtail this function,” Acharya further said.

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