One of the main reasons the government of K P Sharma Oli is receiving public criticism is because it has been introducing one after another controversial bill in the parliament. Most controversial in this regard have been Guthi Bill, Media Council Bill, National Human Rights Commission Bill and National Security Bill. The first was criticized because it had the provisions that political party in power could use or misuse to curtail press freedom or selectively target media houses which disseminate news and views critical of the government. Entire media fraternity, including the civil society, vehemently stood against the bill, even launched street protests. At the end of the day, the government agreed to accommodate some concerns of the media fraternity and make changes in the bill. On Guthi Bill, the government was under attack from larger Guthi community and it had to withdraw it. Three months after the withdrawal of this controversial bill, the government is reportedly preparing to take back National Security Council Bill which was registered at Parliament Secretariat six months ago.
This is a welcome initiative for like other bills, National Security Bill was equally problematic. The bill proposed a prerogative to the prime minister for mobilizing Nepal Army directly through a cabinet decision in case of emergency, without having to consult National Security Council, and without taking prior recommendation from the council and approval from the president. It was against the spirit of the constitution because the constitution makes it mandatory for the government to take decisions on mobilization and control of Nepal Army based on recommendations of seven-member Security Council. This is the reason opposition parties—Nepali Congress and Rastriya Janata Party Nepal (RJPN)—had stood against it. Concerns were raised about the provision that allowed the government to unilaterally mobilize Nepal Army.
If the government is indeed thinking of withdrawing the security bill from the parliament to revise it in line with the recently updated National Security Policy, it must be taken as the step toward correcting the mistakes on controversial bills. Other bills such as National Human Rights Commission Bill, Public Service Commission Bill, Bill on Peace and Order and Bill on National Priority Projects, which are on hold in parliament, for months, due to protests from various stakeholders, should also be reviewed for making them broadly acceptable. Opposition parties need not interpret such gestures as government bowing down to pressures. Elected government can bring necessary laws to address various issues and it very much should be allowed to do that. However, withdrawal of Guthi Bill and planned withdrawal of National Security Bill are instructive to the government regarding how it should go ahead with the bills. There would not have been much criticism against the government if it had taken the concerned stakeholders into confidence while drafting the bills. We would like to believe that the government’s change in mind in national security bill is the step toward becoming accommodative of concerns raised by people, opposition parties and civil society. From now on, if the government holds wider consultation with the stakeholders, its decisions will be less controversial and will also send the message that the government is listening to people.