Lawmakers call to adopt parliamentary calendar goes unheededThe Oli administration is in no hurry to convene the winter session of Parliament and face questions from lawmakers.
There’s a growing discontent among lawmakers, including those from the ruling Nepal Communist Party, over the way the KP Sharma Oli government has been running things. And they feel the only place to hold the government to account is Parliament.
Prime Minister Oli, however, has turned a deaf ear towards demands from cross-party lawmakers to convene the winter session of Parliament.
Oli’s reluctance to do so has increased a sense of necessity among cross-party lawmakers that there should be a calendar for the federal parliament with a fixed date for the resumption and prorogation of sessions.
Pushpa Bhusal, the whip of Nepali Congress, said had there been a calendar the Oli government couldn’t have abruptly ended the budget session in July without even consulting the Speaker. Also, it couldn’t have pushed the session the way it liked.
“The way the incumbent government is taking the decisions about House sessions has increased the necessity for a calendar,” she told the Post. “There have been only talks all these years. We will lobby for revision in the parliament’s law to incorporate a calendar.”
Few months after taking the Speaker’s position, then Speaker Krishna Bahadur Mahara in October 2018 had said that making a calendar for the House of Representatives would be his main priority. However, after leading the House for over a year, during which he failed to prepare a calendar, Mahara stepped down in October last year following allegations of attempted rape.
Incumbent Speaker Agni Prasad Sapkota in April made a similar announcement. However, no steps have been taken towards preparing a parliamentary calendar.
As the constitution makes it mandatory to present the national budget on Jestha 15 (May end), the budget session is called around a month earlier. However, there is no such obligation for the bill session.
“I have heard talks about adopting a calendar multiple times. But I don’t know if any steps are being taken to come up with one,” Roj Nath Pandey, spokesperson for parliament secretariat, told the Post.
“The House has been functioning on an ad hoc basis,” he added.
Different countries, including the United Kingdom, whose Westminster model of parliamentary government is adopted by Nepal, prepare the calendar for House sessions a year in advance.
In neighbouring India, while there are no fixed dates for the commencement of parliamentary sessions, its budget session starts in February and ends in May, the next session begins in July and runs through September and the winter session lasts over a month in November and December.
Pandey said a calendar is a must for an effective functioning of Parliament and to streamline its works. “This is a political issue which needs to be decided through the discussion among the parties,” he said on the issue of adopting a calendar for the federal parliament.
Those who have the experience and expertise on parliamentary practice say the discussion about preparing the House calendar has been ongoing ever since the restoration of democracy in the 1990s.
Surya Kiran Gurung, the former general secretary of parliament secretariat, said the demand for adopting a calendar has been going on since the 1990s but none of the leadership of the parties that governed the country has taken the call seriously.
“Those in power don’t want to lose their prerogative over the House so they don't have the calendar in place,” he told the Post. “The importance of a calendar has become more evident as the incumbent government has broken the customary practice of ending the House session by consulting with the Speaker.”
Gurung said he doesn’t remember any government that has ended the House session without informing the Speaker, which the Oli administration did. Though the government bears the authority to call and prorogue the House session, it has been customary practice to consult with the Speaker and the chief whips of different parties before recommending to end the House session.
Amid intense pressure on Oli from within his own party to resign both as prime minister and the party chair, the government on July 2 recommended to the President for the prorogation of the budget session.
Even Speaker Sapkota wasn’t formally aware about the development.
President Bidya Devi Bhandari swiftly approved the Cabinet’s recommendation, a move that raised criticism from many quarters.
In the observation of former Speaker Tara Nath Ranabhat, as Oli’s present situation isn’t different from that of July, he will try to push the Parliament session as much as he can.
“His government has failed on different fronts, so calling the House means opening the door for his criticism,” he told the Post. “Also, there are chances of him facing a no-confidence motion from his own party.”
The constitutional provision doesn’t allow a gap of more than six months between two sessions of Parliament. So the Oli government has no option but to call the winter session by January 1.
“The session should be utilised to formulate a calendar as well as to hold the Oli administration to account,” said Ranabhat. “The opposition – the Nepali Congress and the Janata Samajbadi Party—should take the lead.”