The right stuffPassing of the bills on basic rights is a milestone, but implementation will be key
Parliament has finally passed 16 bills necessary to guarantee the fundamental rights enshrined in the constitution. Although done in the nick of time, it is still a reason for cheer as the constitutional deadline was met amid doubts. The constitution adopted in 2015 had outlined 31 fundamental rights and duties and required the state to make legal provisions for their implementation within three years of commencement of the charter.
As the country slowly comes out of the political imbroglio of the past decades, guaranteeing of fundamental rights will give people a sense of security and confidence as it guards their basic human rights. Over time, fundamental rights manifest themselves in society as generally accepted basic values. A characteristic feature of these rights is that the public authorities have an obligation to safeguard and promote their implementation.
The bill on Right to Safe Motherhood and Reproductive Health Rights, Public Health Bill, bill on Employment Rights, consumer rights, Right to Food and Right to Residence are examples of some of the rights guaranteed in the new constitution as fundamental rights. While some bills were freshly drafted, some have been prepared by amending provisions in the existing laws.
The passing of all the bills on basic rights is a significant achievement, no doubt, but it will also increase the financial liability on the government as these laws will be implemented. For example, the bill on Employment Rights seeks to provide 100 days of guaranteed wage employment for all employment seekers. Section 22 of the bill has a provision of sustenance allowance for unemployed people where it reads, “If the government fails to provide minimum employment to an unemployed person listed in the centre, he/she shall be entitled to an amount equivalent to 50 per cent of minimum salary of 100 days as prescribed by the ministry in a fiscal year.”
While such social security measures sound exciting, the government has to make sure the state is in a position to support the schemes. Should the state fail to deliver it, then the whole spirit of fundamental rights will be lost.
What’s more, amid fears that the laws might not be drafted within the timeframe, the House of Representatives had given the respective parliamentary committees a week after September 7 to finalise the bills. This means there could not be much deliberation between different stakeholders and within the house itself. The Parliament had three years to discuss the issues and draft bill, nevertheless it decided to wait until the last moment and prepare everything in haste. It’s important to remember, however, it’s not just this government to be blamed for the delay.
The previous governments also dilly-dallied and barely consulted with the stakeholders before drafting the bills.
Legally ensuring fundamental rights for all is a milestone for a country like ours, but implementation will be key for it to succeed.