Oli has shown no urgency to call Constitutional Council meetings to fill vacancies in constitutional bodiesEarlier, he had tried to bulldoze two ordinances—one of which he said was to prompt constitutional appointments.
On April 20, when Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli issued an ordinance on the Constitutional Council along with the ordinance on political parties, he defended it saying it was necessary, as appointments to constitutional commissions had been delayed due to the continued absence of the leader of the opposition.
He argued that the process for appointments pending for months would be eased through the ordinance which allowed the council to take decisions even in the absence of the opposition leader. Though Oli pointed out urgency for the appointment to be the reason for the issuance of the ordinance, he has not shown any interest in calling the council meeting now. The government decided to repeal both the ordinances following huge criticism within the ruling Nepal Communist Party and outside.
Oli’s press advisor Surya Thapa said the council is unlikely to meet anytime soon. Asked why the meeting was not called as per the prime minister’s stated urgency for appointments to the constitutional bodies, Thapa, without giving a clear answer, said, “Yes... but the prime minister hasn’t called the meeting yet and it is unlikely anytime soon.”
Nepali Congress leaders say the time has proved that Oli’s argument was a blatant lie. Prakash Sharan Mahat, who is close to party President Sher Bahadur Deuba, said if there was urgency for the appointments, Oli would have called the meeting by now. He said the council made appointments in the past even when the opposition leader remained absent from the subsequent meetings; therefore, Oli’s claim that Deuba’s absence delayed the appointments holds no ground.
The council on January 20 last year had picked chairpersons for five commissions—National Resource and Fiscal, National Muslim, National Tharu, National Madhesi and the Inclusive—in the absence of Deuba. The Constitutional Council, headed by the prime minister, consists of the chief justice, Speaker and deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, chairman of the National Assembly, and leader of the main opposition as members. The minister for law and justice also takes a seat when the appointment is related to the judiciary while the chief secretary functions as the secretary of the council.
The ordinance was a failed attempt by Oli to capture the state machinery and use institutions against his opponents, Mahat said. “The council needs the presence of the leader of opposition, chief justice and the speaker to ensure neutrality in the recommendation process.”
Baburam Bhattarai, leader of the Janata Samajbadi Party Nepal, had also charged that the act of issuing the ordinance on the Constitutional Council was to monopolise appointments in the constitutional bodies. Speaking in the House of Representatives on Friday, Bhattarai had said Oli needed the ordinance to enroll his people in the commissions.
Along with the new commissions envisioned by the Constitution of Nepal, the Election Commission and the Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority. Both the commissions lack two of the five members each.
However, none among the Tharu, Women, Dalit, Inclusion, Madhesi, Muslim, Indigenous Nationalities, and Natural Resources and Fiscal commissions that are provisioned for ensuring inclusiveness and the rights of marginalised communities, is full. The Women, Dalit, Indigenous Nationalities and Inclusion commissions are all without chiefs while the other four are without their members.
These commissions have a 10-year mandate, beginning from the day of constitution promulgation, to work for the empowerment of their respective communities and ensure their participation in socio-political life. Successive governments—led by the CPN-UML, CPN (Maoist Centre) and the Nepali Congress—have all failed to appoint office bearers to the commissions. The incumbent government, which has been in power for two years, has also shown little urgency in making the appointments.
The last time the council met was on March 25 last year, when Dinesh Thapaliya was recommended as the chief commissioner of the Election Commission and Bishnu Maya Ojha as a member of the Inclusion Commission.