Constitutional body without a single commissioner for 15 months while complaints pile up
KATHMANDU, March 31: The Constitutional Council, which is headed by the prime minister, picked the new head of the Election Commission on Monday just a day after the outgoing chief election commissioner retired from the post.
Another constitutional body, National Women's Commission, has meanwhile remained headless for over three years since its former chairperson Sheikh Chandtara retired from her position in November 2015.
The women's commission has not had even a single member since October 2017, when the tenure of Bhagawati Ghimire was terminated. This followed the enactment of a new law concerning the functioning of the commission. Ghimire was acting chair of the commission since March 2016 when the terms of all the other members expired.
At present, the two seniormost officials at the commission are both men-- Secretary Anil Kumar Thakur and Joint Secretary Yubaraj Subedi.
Established in 2002, the women's commission mainly works on women's issues and provides legal and other assistance to women facing various problems. But in the absence of a chairperson and members in recent years, it has failed to work at full capacity.
The commission's records show that the number of complaints about violence against women registered with it has been increasingly steadily.
The commission received 838 such complaints in the last fiscal year. Over 818 cases have already been registered in just the eight months of this fiscal year.
Until a few years ago the commission had six office bearers, including a chairperson.
With the government's recent decision to assign only a joint-secretary level official as the seniormost civil servant at some of the constitutional bodies, Secretary Thakur will be transferred from the women's commission, leaving Joint Secretary Subedi to head it. Stakeholders worry that this will render the commission still more toothless.
“It is serious negligence on the part of the government not to take any initiative to appoint office bearers at the commission even as cases of violence against women are increasing . It didn't listen to us when we drew its attention to this,” said Sheikh Chandatara, the former chairperson .
In the absence of a chairperson and members, the commission has been unable to issue any directions to the government, said commission officials. “The commission has been carrying out its regular work even in the absence of office bearers but it cannot issue directions to government officials in the absence of its office bearers,” said Dhruba Raj Chhetry, information officer at the commission.
The commission visited Kanchanpur and prepared a report after carrying out investigations in the rape and murder case of Nirmala Panta in June last year. But it didn't take any further action other than drawing the attention of the government. “The role of the commission would have been vital if it had office bearers,” said an official at the commission.