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Some Aspects of Constitution

Issue 46, November 15, 2009

Siddhi B. Ranjitkar

The despotic rulers have enslaved all Nepalis except for the family members of the rulers. Nepalis have suffered from the denial of rights to serve in the army, police and administration; some ethnic groups had suffered directly whereas most of the Nepalis indirectly from not having a chance to serve the state administration, police and army during the 240-year rule of the Shah dynasty. So, we need to write a new constitution of Nepal with the provision for making the state machinery inclusive doing away with the past exclusive administration, police and army.

The members of the Constitution Assembly (CA) since their election to this assembly have been engaged in the writing of a new constitution, they have gone to the people to collect their opinions about the new constitution, then they have become the members of various thematic and administrative committees for preparing the draft papers on their concerned subject matters; consequently, we hope that they will complete the writing of a new constitution as scheduled, and then take the drat constitution to the people again and get it endorsed from the people.

We need to have one federal constitution and one each of every state, as our country is the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal. The federal constitution needs to be as simple as possible and as general as possible so that the future federal legislators could work with greater flexibility. The state constitutions might have some details but not too many details so that the constitutions would not bind the hands and legs of the state legislators.

The federal constitution needs not mention a number of commissions to set up rather needs to leave it open so that the federal or state legislators could set up a number of commissions depending on the needs, and dissolve commissions that do not really need to exist.

Concerning the fundamental rights of the people, the constitution should simply follow the UN charters or charters of other human rights institutions. Nepalis should not be denied of any sorts of human rights people enjoy elsewhere in the world.

Certainly, the CA members need to decide unanimously the sorts of the legislature, executive, judiciary and media to be set up in the country. No doubt all of these four pillars of democracy need to be independent from each other. To this end, the constitution needs to have the provision for directly electing the chief executive. We have seen that the provision for electing the chief executive from the legislators has brought political evils and corruption among the politicians and the stability of such an executive has depended on the whims of the legislators; consequently, buying and selling of the legislators have been prevalent in the Nepalese politics. In order to make the judiciary independent, the justices of the Supreme Court of Nepal should have the life-term services rather than limiting their services to a certain age. No doubt, the media should be independent but the media should also be made responsible to the people. The constitution needs to guarantee the rights of the people to correct information not rumors. So, the constitution should make the provision for punishing the media providing the people with wrong information.

Sharing of the revenue from taxes, natural resources and other sources between the federal government and the states should be left open to negotiations between the federal government and state governments so that some remote states might have a chance to keep more resources for their fast socio-economic development to catch up with the advanced states where as other well off states might share more revenues with the federal government.

In no case, either the federal constitution or the state constitutions should make any reservation for any ethnic or caste groups or communities for anything. No mater which caste or ethnic groups we belong to we are poor, as 40% of the population still live under the poverty line defined by the Nepalese standard, and more than 70% people still live in one way or another in poverty. So, we need to improve the lives of all Nepalis in general.

The federal constitution needs not mention a number of states. It simply needs to say Nepal will be the federation of a number of states to give the future federal legislators the rights to increase or decrease the number of states depending upon the wishes of the people to divide a state into two or more states or merge some states into a single state. For now, the CA members may decide the number of states and their frontiers.

The federal constitution should not have any sorts of provision for giving states the rights to break away from the federation. The federal government should have the rights to use the military, police and all other power in its disposal including foreign assistance for stopping any state from breaking away from the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal. Only the federal government should have the rights to have the army and use it for defending the national frontiers.

The federal government as well as the state governments can have the police. The federal government will use the police only for assisting the state governments in case the state governments could not deal with the problems of violence and insurgency. In fact, the state governments should give the local governments to have their own police force following the principles of decentralization. Currently, the lowest local governments are the Village Development Committees. So, they should have their own police forces. In view of our remote hill areas, it might be even advisable to let the wards of Village Development Committees have their own police force to maintain law and order in their areas.

The federal constitution should not make any provisions for giving the federal government the rights to interfere in the business of the state governments and the state governments in turn should not interfere in the business of the local governments. They should stand as independent elected governments and work for their full term.

The federal constitution needs to make the provision for the states working autonomously for their social-economic development without the interference of the federal government except in case of a state attempting to break away from the federation.

Every state should have the rights to develop its natural resources within its frontiers, as its elected government wants to not going against the federal constitution. The natural resources are its assets and the federal government should not interfere in it. The federal government may involve in the business of states in case of dispute over inter-state natural resources.

Every state no matter in what name it is called, all people living in it will be sovereign. In the name of the majority of the people living in it, none should claim for the monopoly of the position of the state governor or administrator in whatever name the chief executive officer is called. Every citizen living in each state should have the rights to any elected position through elections.

Concerning the citizenship, the federal constitution and the state constitutions should mention it in a very simple term. The rights to issue citizenship certificates should be delegated to the lowest level of the local governments in other words the current ward committees of Village Development Areas and municipalities, as births and deaths will be registered at the ward committees. Even the issuing of passports should be entrusted to the ward committees.

The CA members should not waste time on discussing the change in the national flag, national animal and so on as the changes in these things will not bring any drastic changes in the lives of the people. We can live under the current flag or if the CA members want to change it, change it for better.

Nobody disputes over the four pillars such as legislature, executive, judiciary and media of governance, and their independence from each other for good governance. The CA members need to insure that none of the provision made in the federal constitution should permit one pillar or another to interfere in the business of other three pillars.

November 12, 2009.

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