The Election Commission recently elected 19 National Assembly members. In this connection, Pratik Ghimire of ApEx talked to Radheshyam Adhikari, outgoing National Assembly member of Nepali Congress, on the assembly’s shortcomings and achievements over the past four years.
What are the major duties of the National Assembly?
Besides formulating and passing bills, the National Assembly oversees and instructs the works of the government. It also discusses and sends resolution proposals on national issues, projects of national pride, and issues of public interest. Besides, the assembly examines the delegated powers of universities and other delegated legislative bodies.
How do you evaluate the past four years of the National Assembly?
The assembly could certainly have performed better. As we have diverse duties, there may have been some shortcomings. But that doesn’t mean we didn’t perform at all. We updated and offered suggestions on many important bills to the lower house. For example, the draft of the Passport Bill sent by the lower house was so regressive that all the power was centered on the government. It was the upper house that made sure that the bill would be universal and accessible to all and updated it accordingly. We also revised the bill to amend the Citizenship Act and the Nepal Special Service Bill on counterintelligence, among others. The controversy surrounding the Guthi Bill was also resolved after the assembly revised its draft.
So why is the assembly repeatedly accused of underperformance?
There are fewer sessions of the National Assembly, say compared to the House of Representatives sessions. Our sessions are only called when the lower house is active and it has kept us in the shadows. The conflict among the political parties in the lower house has hamstrung the performance of the upper house as well.
Do we really need the National Assembly? Isn’t the House of Representatives enough?
It is too soon to debate that. Everything has its time and the National Assembly must be given enough time to perform. If the assembly could not perform as expected, say after the next two elections of the lower house, then this debate could be relevant. For now, we should debate how to bring deserving members to the assembly and work effectively.
We also need the National Assembly to honor the spirit of check and balance. As I mentioned earlier, the upper house has done a lot of work on important bills. The lower house has a tendency of working in a rush. It always forwards bills that are incomplete and full of ambiguities. It is the work of the upper house to address those issues.
Has the National Assembly become a platform for parties to accommodate leaders who fail to get into the lower house?
I don’t think that is the case. There are many deserving leaders who have made decent contributions to bring political changes in Nepal since the 1990s, and they have not gotten the chance to serve the nation. So bringing them into the National Assembly is only fair. But I do believe that the assembly is a chamber of intellectuals and experts, and that its members must have required skills and qualifications.