Today, the 3rd of Asoj in the Nepali calendar, is a momentous occasion for Nepal and Nepalis. On this very day in 2015, the Constitution of Nepal was promulgated, ushering in the federal system of governance and ending a 240-year-old monarchy along with the unitary form of governance. This is the country's seventh national charter. While this fundamental law of the nation includes numerous commendable features and provides a clear direction for the nation and its people, its effective implementation remains a challenge in many respects.
Eight years have passed since the hard-won inclusive constitution came into force. This period is not sufficient for a federal republic to get fully institutionalised and consolidated. However, many notable achievements have been made during this period. The country witnessed two three-tier elections, forming the federal, provincial and local governments. Even amidst political instability in the country, these three levels of government have remained dedicated to improving the service delivery system and bringing joy to the lives of people. With the functioning of state mechanisms, there has been enhanced cooperation and coordination among them. Despite this, they still have a long way to go when it comes to making their relationships smoother and more practical.
It is encouraging that all the major political parties have been concerned about strengthening the federal republican system. Their leaders have reiterated their commitment to safeguarding the constitution and implementing it in its spirit and letter in order to lead the nation to the path of stability, durable peace, development, and prosperity. However, the nation still requires more than 180 laws to fully enforce the federal constitution. What is more worrying is that many important laws, including ones dealing with transitional justice and the federal civil service, are pending. The federal parliament, which was elected in 2017 for the first time after the promulgation of the federal constitution, enacted a total of 102 laws in its five-year term. In contrast, the parliament formed in November last year has just amended a single law, addressing usury practices. This highlights unhurried and inadequate efforts being made by both the executive and the legislature in regard to the institutionalisation of the constitution. A study conducted by the legislature management committee under the National Assembly has lately called for accelerating the process of formulating necessary acts and laws in order to implement the constitution in a more efficient manner.
It is equally dismaying that parliamentary proceedings are frequently disrupted. Opposition political parties are found involved in such unwanted activities on one pretext or another, forgetting their responsibilities towards the people and the nation. With such moves, the lawmaking process has been interrupted for weeks, if not months. Experience has shown that the parties have gone for parliamentary disturbances just to divert public attention. Since such activities also help put important issues of national and public importance in the shadow, the responsible parties must shun causing disturbances to the House proceedings once and for all. This type of wrongdoing will not be in the interest of anyone in the long run.
Furthermore, political anomalies have persisted even after the introduction of the federal system of governance. Both the federal and provincial legislatures appear to have violated constitutional provisions. Although the constitution does not have any provision in regard to the constituency development fund, the federal and provincial parliaments have allocated budgets for it. In its verdict, the Supreme Court (SC) invalidated this pork barrel politics. But numerous lawmakers in federal and provincial legislatures have accused the judiciary of going beyond its jurisdiction. However, legal experts argue that lawmakers should refrain from taking on executive responsibilities.
The scheme in question is believed to grant lawmakers the power to select projects and possibly misuse funds. The SC's decision has emphasised that the constitution does not grant executive functions to the federal and provincial legislatures. So, the primary responsibility of lawmakers is formulating the required laws.
There is no doubt that in a parliamentary democracy, the parliament represents the supreme body of elected representatives of the people. It serves as the platform for these representatives to raise critical issues, seek solutions to problems, and compel the government to act in the best interests of the country and its citizens. However, when hidden agendas take precedence, parliamentary proceedings get disrupted, and the people and their issues are disregarded, looking around, Nepal faces ongoing economic challenges, inflation, and climate change-induced natural disasters like flash floods, droughts, and landslides, causing significant suffering to the people. Many farmers have also suffered a huge loss because of the spread of the lumpy skin. This viral disease has killed a lot of livestock. Due to a lack of reliable rainfall, agricultural lands yield poorly, resulting in substantial lossesfor farmers.
Additionally, the mass exodus of the young population abroad in search of job opportunities cannot be ignored. Reports indicate that in the last fiscal year, approximately 900,000 youths aged between 16 and 40 left the country. Among them, about 110,000 were students, reflecting the frustration stemming from power struggles and limited livelihood opportunities within the nation. Rampant corruption and different scams like the fake Bhutanese refugee and gold smuggling have tainted the country’s image internationally.
The parliament must discuss such critical issues extensively and find ways to address them. Without establishing good governance, rule of law and accountability, democracy cannot become stronger. The aforementioned cases merely scratch the surface of the challenges within the implementation of constitutional provisions that remain unaddressed.
The promulgation of the constitution initially brought immense joy to the people. To sustain this happiness, it is imperative that the government, people's representatives, citizens, and other stakeholders contribute towards implementing the constitution properly. The constitution must guide the state, not the other way around. The interests and agendas of a select few should not drive the supreme law of the country, steering the nation in the wrong direction. Let this Constitution Day not be merely a superficial celebration but a day of reflection, learning, and a solemn promise to protect and uphold the Constitution at all costs.
(The author is a deputy executive editor of this daily.)