Saturday, 16 January, 2021

Respecting Spirit Of Constitution

Bishnu Gautam


“As a prime minister elected with a landslide vote, I vow to implement the constitution as per its ‘letters and spirit’ to ensure peace, good governance, development and progress,” Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli had said while addressing the Constitution Day programme in the capital last year.
By saying so, the Prime Minister had given a clear message that no one had rights to go against the constitution drafted and promulgated by the Constituent Assembly.
In the same address, he had said, “The federal constitution drafted and promulgated in the participation of about five dozen political parties, 1, 202 lawmakers, hundreds of experts and millions of people of all castes and ethnicities, languages, religions and cultures, has accepted the importance of each Nepali citizen.”

Progressive document
He also had made it clear that the constitution is a document that can be amended according to the time and needs.
He further said, “But this constitution is more vibrant than all the experiences that we had in the past. All the best practices of democracy such as multiparty political system, periodic elections, human rights, rule of law, separation of power with proper control and balance and independent judiciary have been institutionalised through this constitution. So it’s the most progressive document that has made the Nepali people sovereign.”
In this address, Prime Minister Oli had summarised four important aspects of the Constitution: long struggle to achieve this, participation of overwhelming number of people and their representatives to draft it, its flexible nature and the need for its implementation as per its letter and spirit.
Obviously, Nepali people had to struggle for 57 years to hold the election to the Constituent Assembly to draft a constitution through people’s representatives and it took 65 years to get a Constitution drafted by their representatives.
Of course, the demand for the Constituent Assembly to draft a constitution was raised from the first democratic movement of 1951, but the demand was foiled and the country went for parliament elections in 1959 based on a king-granted constitution.
After the political change of 1990, the demand for a CA was also raised, but it was not heeded, and the people got a constitution drafted by the representatives of the political parties, which had participated in the 1990 political movement, and the king. Although it was a progressive constitution, it could not last long, especially after the insurgency launched by the Maoists, an alternative to this document was sought.
Finally, the April Uprising of 2006 ended the constitution of 1990, as the holding of the CA election to draft the new constitution was one of the major demands of the political movement that ended the armed conflict of the Maoist and the direct rule of the king.
Although the political movement of 2006 succeeded, the political parties had to struggle for two years to hold the election of the CA in 2008, but the first CA failed to draft and promulgate a new constitution and the second CA had to be formed in 2013 by holding another election.
The second CA though accomplished the task of drafting the constitution, promulgating the constitution became an equally challenging task due to the protest from some political forces in home backed by external elements. It was evident from the fact that the Nepali people affected by the 2015 earthquake faced blockade for promulgating the constitution on their own. However, the unprecedented unity among the political parties after the devastating 2015 earthquake made the promulgation of the Constitution possible.
Now come to the third point mentioned by the Prime Minister that the constitution could be amended. According to him, the document has already been amended which brought the disgruntling forces, which had bred violence before and after the promulgation of the constitution on board. They are now in the federal and state parliaments formed as per the constitution. It was one of the important achievements made in making the constitution acceptable to all political forces of the nation.

Violation of norms
The efforts made to oust the Prime Minister by holding clandestine meetings, interference in the works of the PM, attempts to amend the constitution to serve the petty interests of a particular leader, delay in making appointments to the constitutional bodies, and leaders defeated in the general elections getting nominated to the parliament have only violated the norms and values of the constitution.
Moreover, the practice of interpreting the constitution based on the interest of the particular political parties and leaders cannot be helpful in the implementation of the national charter as per its spirit.
Five years on, the constitution has been implemented thoroughly. We have local, state and federal governments formed following the three-tier elections as provisioned in the constitution.
Now, as we are marking the 5th Constitution Day, we should work to safeguard the hard-achieved document by honouring its letters and spirit through our honest acts, not only through rhetoric.

(Gautam is chief reporter at The Rising Nepal) 

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