July 1, 2019 09:57 AM NPT
With the head of government enjoying comfortable majority in the parliament, one would expect that all constitutional bodies are working as per the stated objectives of those bodies. This has not been the case now. As things stand, the Constitutional Council (CC) headed by Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli has failed to appoint heads and other office bearers of various constitutional commissions although the constitution mandates that such appointments are made promptly. At least three constitutional commissions are headless as the CC has not paid much attention toward appointments issue. National Dalit Commission, National Women’s Commission and Indigenous Nationalities Commission are without chief commissioners and they are all run by bureaucrats, which is why these commissions are not able to issue any directives or make recommendations to the concerned authorities on critical issues. Dalit and Women’s commissions also lack other office bearers for nearly two years since the terms of previous office bearers ended in October 2017 following the enactment of new law regarding the functions of these commissions. The CC has not appointed the head and office bearers at Indigenous Commission since its establishment two years ago. This has not only rendered these commissions ineffective but such a neglect is also unconstitutional because Article 284 of the constitution calls for initiating the appointments process at constitutional bodies prior to the expiry of terms of the incumbents and for filling the posts immediately after they fall vacant. The constitution does not allow these vital posts to remain headless for more than a month.
Why is the government delaying the appointment process in these vital bodies? The outcomes of this neglect have been costly. In the absence of office bearers, these commissions have become unable to fulfill their responsibilities. For example, Women’s Commission has received over 1,100 complaints over violence against women this fiscal year but it has failed to act upon these complaints in the absence of decision-making officials. Dalit Commission has not been able to work proactively for making recommendations to end caste-based discrimination. Stakeholders have long been calling for filing these vacancies. The CC called for applications for the posts of heads and members of the seven various constitutional commissions in August last year but it recommended the heads for only four commissions and a member for one, leaving three commissions without heads or members. One post of commissioner each in Election Commission and Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority is yet to be fulfilled, while three commissions including Muslim Commission, Madhesi Commission and Tharu Commission are yet to get additional members.
The Constitutional Council should meet immediately to look into this case and take measures to give complete shape to constitutional bodies. It is learnt that Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli has been unable to complete the process, due, mainly, to internal disputes in his party. Internal differences cannot be made a reason to hold appointment process hostage. Nothing stops the prime minister to take the decision in this regard for most members of Constitutional Council—speaker and deputy speaker of the House of Representatives, chairperson of National Assembly—are from the ruling party. Constitutional bodies play vital role in implementing the vision of the constitution. Leaving these bodies in limbo might also raise question over the commitment of the government to implement the constitution.