KATHMANDU, April 21: Officials at the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) have protested against the government's push to curtail the authority of the human rights watchdog body through an amendment of the law.
NHRC conveyed its serious objections to the prime minister and his office as soon as the government forwarded the Bill to Amend the NHRC ACT 2012 to the House of Representatives for registration.
NHRC Chairperson Anup Raj Sharma said he expressed discontent with the amendment draft in a meeting with Prime Minister K P Oli and the commission also wrote to the PMO expressing concern over provisions that curtail the NHRC's jurisdiction .
“If the proposed amendment is endorsed by parliament our 10 regional and sub-regional offices will lose the legal basis for their existence,” Sharma told Republica on Saturday. The amendment bill has proposed scrapping Clause 26 (B) of the existing bill. The clause pertains to the regional offices . “We had suggested to the government to bring the regional offices under the provinces but it decided to scrap them instead, and that will weaken the NHRC,” Sharma added.
The amendment bill is awaiting registration at the House of Representatives since the last few days because of the lack of officials at the bills section of parliament, said one official.
Though the government has introduced a procedure for filing court cases over human rights issues upon the recommendation of the rights watchdog body, NHRC officials are not satisfied as it gives the Attorney General's Office an upper hand in decisions to file such cases.
The amendment bill further says that NHRC should recommend to the AG's office for filing cases along with the evidence and the AG's office may decide to file if it feels a need to do so. The bill adds that the AG's office shall request NHRC for further investigations on any recommendation to file a case.
Issuing a statement, NHRC has objected to this provision, stating it is 'against the spirit of Article 293 of the Constitution' and has the intention of placing the recommendations and orders of the commission under the direction of the AG's office.
Chairperson Sharma added that the bill is also against the Supreme Court ruling that makes implementation of NHRC orders mandatory, and against the international standard for human rights watchdog bodies.
The government's move comes at a time when the Global Alliance of National Human Rights Institutions (GANHRI) has re-accredited Nepal with the 'A' status in respect to human rights . Nepal, India and Afghanistan have made it to this status in South Asia, while the other countries are listed under 'B'.
The amendment bill also proposes mandatory consent by the Finance Ministry for accepting additional financial sources for the NHRC to carry out human rights related activities. NHRC has objected, stating that this curtails the financial autonomy of the commission.
NHRC Chairperson Sharma said that it will draw the attention of lawmakers to the provisions of the bill that curtail its authority.