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Constitution Day: Time to uphold and implement the Charter

Constitution Day: Time to uphold and implement the Charter

Constitutional experts, legal professionals, and students of constitutional law have consistently emphasized that the Constitution of Nepal 2015 was rushed and lacked the necessary time, thorough deliberation, and extensive discussions during its drafting and promulgation. Consequently, it required subsequent amendments, with the first set of revisions made just four months after its promulgation.

Nevertheless, it’s essential to recognize that a constitution is a living document, subject to modifications as societal needs and circumstances evolve over time. In order to ensure its effective functioning and broader acceptance, amendments become a necessary step.

However, it is crucial to approach any constitutional amendments in a manner that aligns with the fundamental principles of the constitution itself. Deviating from these principles can disrupt the constitutional framework and put the entire system at risk.

It is imperative to understand that no one is exempt from the authority of the constitution, and this responsibility extends to every citizen of Nepal. Safeguarding the constitution is a collective duty that falls upon all shoulders, from laymen to politicians. 

The constitution stipulates that in order for it to operate effectively, existing laws and acts must be regularly reviewed, modified, and supplemented. However, necessary legal revisions have not been undertaken. Take, for example, Part 3 of the constitution, which outlines Fundamental Rights and Duties and comprises 33 articles. It expressly states that the Parliament is responsible for enacting legislation to enforce these fundamental rights, yet no such laws have been enacted. This issue is pervasive throughout various sections of the constitution. Despite the nation celebrating the ninth Constitution Day, it is evident that the constitution has not been adequately put into practice.

The ruling coalition appears to be asserting authority above and beyond the constitution itself. Their decisions during meetings are treated as the final word, regardless of legal stipulations. A clear example of this is when the Supreme Court opened a way for an investigation against former Prime Ministers Madhav Kumar Nepal and Baburam Bhattarai regarding their involvement in the Lalita Niwas land-grab. But the ruling coalition decided that such a probe was unnecessary, contending that the former PMs were not culpable. It is the responsibility of the Central Investigation Bureau (CIB) of Nepal Police to conduct the investigation and the court responsibility to determine guilt or innocence. As a result of the ruling coalition’s decision, despite the apex court’s ruling, no case was filed against them, and even the investigators involved were transferred, in accordance with the coalition’s directives. This demonstrates the governments and political parties’ apparent disregard for established legal procedures.

On Aug 22, President Ram Chandra Paudel called a meeting of representatives from all political parties to address the deadlock in the federal parliament. Has the constitution given the president the right to call an all-party meeting with specific agendas? No. President, being the protector of the constitution, didn’t follow it. Was there any national emergency that the president had to get mobilized for a national consensus? No. Or, the president should have justified his move.

According to Sub-article (2) of Article (1) in Part 1 of the constitution, it is the duty of every person to uphold the constitution. Additionally, Article 48 in Part 3 outlines the duties of citizens. The duties, according to our constitution, are: (a) To safeguard the nationality, sovereignty and integrity of Nepal, while being loyal to the nation; (b) To abide by the Constitution and law; (c) To render compulsory service as and when the state so requires; (d) To protect and preserve public property.

However, it raises concerns as to why the prominent leaders of the government and other political factions are not adhering to these constitutional duties and are seemingly disregarding the constitution. Is the constitution meant solely for citizens to adhere to?

Therefore, if the parliament had enacted laws clearly defining the rights and obligations of citizens, government officials, ministers and political leaders, it could have significantly reduced the issue of not adhering to the constitution.

Isn’t it pathetic that those political parties and leaders who drove the citizens for a new political system and new constitution, are not following it?

The prevailing competition among various parties and individuals in disregarding the constitution has led the public to question its durability. These actions are undermining the longevity of the constitution, prompting people to contemplate alternative options to this constitutional and political system, which definitely is not a good sign for anyone.

On the occasion of Constitution Day, I urge all individuals, organizations, political parties and the government to adhere to the constitution. It’s high time to grasp the significance of upholding the charter.

The author is a member of the Supreme Court Bar and has been practicing corporate law for around three decades