Most constitutional bodies remain largely non-functionalNHRC established that the killing of Kumar Paudel was extrajudicial in nature, but the government and the Nepal Police have yet to implement its recommendations.
In October, the National Human Rights Commission had concluded that Kumar Paudel, Sarlahi district in-charge of the Netra Bikram Chand-led Communist Party of Nepal, was ‘killed after he was taken into custody’. Following controversy over Paudel’s death, the government formed an inquiry team led by an under-secretary at the Ministry of Home Affairs. The inquiry concluded that Paudel had opened fire on police personnel first. But two months since the Commission established that the killing of Paudel was extrajudicial in nature, the government and the Nepal Police have yet to implement its recommendations, showing utter disregard for the constitutional body.
Paudel was killed on June 20 in Lalbandi, Sarlahi district, in what police had claimed was ‘police action’. According to Superintendent of Police Gopal Chandra Bhattarai, security personnel returned fire after a group of four motorcycle-borne persons began shooting at a police patrol. Home Minister Ram Bahadur Thapa restated Bhattarai’s claims before the House of Representatives and the parliamentary State Affairs Committee that Paudel had been killed after police fired in self-defence.
The law says that since the National Human Rights Commission is a constitutional rights watchdog, the government must implement its recommendation within two months or report to it if it fails to do so. But so far, the government has remained passive. What’s more, the Home Ministry and the Nepal Police have not given a clear answer to why the recommendations were not implemented.
Constitutional commissions are created so that they can address important issues pertaining to social inclusion and justice. They are especially mandated to identify areas of necessary policy, legal and institutional reforms, and make recommendations to the government. The Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the Commission of Investigation on Enforced Disappeared Persons, National Women’s Commission, Dalit Commission and Muslim Commission are a few other commissions the government has created, to name a few.
But successive governments at different times have turned them into a political playground. The conflict over the sharing of positions among the parties and groups within them is the reason behind the delay in appointing members to the commissions. With no members, no human resources and lack of office space, most commissions have remained largely non-functional.
The national commissions are supposed to be parastatal watchdogs to keep an eye on the implementation of human rights and civil liberties. But today, they remain quasi-autonomous bodies with the government pulling the strings. No doubt, such a situation where the commissions are rendered toothless is detrimental to the health of democracy. The fact that the government and the Nepal Police alike need to take the recommendations of the Nepal Human Rights Commission on the Kumar Paudel case seriously cannot be overstated. As it is, many decisions, such as those pertaining to muzzling dissent, or the rise in cases of police brutality during the Oli-led government, have become quite unpopular among the people. Given that, the government must rethink its decisions and act in the interest of the people, and serve the people rather than exploit the system and weaken constitutional bodies.