House likely to expire with dozens of bills pending as tenure draws to closeSome bills, including crucial ones, have been stacked since first meeting in March 2018.
With the conclusion of the local elections, the ruling parties have started discussions to fix the dates for federal and provincial elections. As the previous elections were held in two phases in November and December, 2017, parties are discussing holding the general elections in late November this year.
If the government agrees to the recommendation of the ruling parties to hold the elections in November, the ongoing session could be the last of the present House of Representatives.
The current session can be stretched till September-end, just before the festival season, if the government wishes so, and this will mean a maximum of four months to endorse all the pending bills, some of which have been languishing since the first session in 2018.
According to the Parliament Secretariat, as many as 55 bills are awaiting passage.
As the government is preparing to bring replacement bills for six ordinances it issued earlier, the House has a total of 61 bills to discuss and endorse within four months, a task that seems almost impossible to achieve.
“Those bills that have been tabled in Parliament after discussions in the respective House committees can be endorsed without delay. However, there are several bills that have just been registered at the Parliament Secretariat with no further progress because of controversy,” Gopal Nath Yogi, a secretary for the House of Representatives, told the Post. “Endorsement of such bills in such a short window is difficult.”
After the 2017 elections, the first meeting of the House was convened on March 5, 2018.
The first dissolution was overturned on February 23, 2021, which meant a loss of around two months. The second dissolution was overturned on July 12, 2021, which caused a loss of another two months.
While restoring the House on July 12, the Supreme Court also ousted Oli from office and appointed Nepali Congress’ Sher Bahadur Deuba as prime minister. The House was expected to pick up momentum, but starting September 8 last year, the main opposition CPN-UML resorted to obstructions to protest against Speaker Agni Sapkota’s refusal to take cognisance of the party’s decision to expel 14 of its lawmakers.
Except for endorsing some bills related to the budget and ratifying the Millennium Challenge Corporation’s Nepal Compact, the House took no other decisions during the period.
The UML decided to lift obstructions when the budget session commenced on May 17.
If elections are to be held in November—chances of delay are highly unlikely—the government must announce the date in such a way that the Election Commission gets at least 120 days, or by July.
“Parliament remained dysfunctional for over a year leaving a backlog of bills for this session. Some pending bills would have been endorsed had the House functioned properly,” an official at the Parliament Secretariat told the Post on the condition of anonymity. “I don’t see the possibility of all the pending bills going through from the present session.”
If the current session fails to endorse the pending bills, they need to be re-registered after a new House of Representatives is elected, as they cease to exist as soon as the term of the current House expires.
Some of the bills in current Parliament like the Federal Civil Service Bill, bill to amend the Citizenship Act, bill to amend the Civil Service Commission Act and an amendment bill on National Human Rights Commission Act are crucial. In addition to the existing ones, the government is preparing to table the Federal Education Bill, and a bill to amend the Enforced Disappearance Enquiry and Truth and Reconciliation Commission Act, 2014.
In the lack of federal laws, the provincial governments have not been able to exercise the authority delegated by the Constitution of Nepal, promulgated more than five years ago. The constitution says the provincial laws need to be in line with federal laws. Provincial governments thus cannot draft their own laws unless the federal laws are in place.
Yogi said as the discussions on the bills related to the national budget will be a priority of the House at least for the next two weeks, chances of other bills getting endorsed are slim. There are four budget-related bills that need parliamentary ratification.
Organising a press meet on May 16, Minister for Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs Govinda Sharma Bandi said the government will make maximum use of the ongoing session to endorse the pending bills.
“Though this is a budget session, its focus will be on endorsing the bills that have been pending for long,” he said. “Let’s see how many bills can get through this session.”
Experts on parliamentary affairs say as it is not possible to endorse all the pending bills from the ongoing session, the government must make a priority list of the bills that need to be endorsed.
“The government must start pushing the bills based on their priorities as it is not possible to endorse all the bills from the ongoing session,” Som Bahadur Thapa, a former secretary at the Parliament Secretariat, told the Post. “Even the Parliament can ask the government what its priorities are and which bills it wants to be ratified first.”
Constitutional experts say it is unfortunate that the provincial governments failed to function in a full-fledged manner because the federal government and the parliament failed to endorse some crucial bills needed to implement federalism.
“Those at the federal level are reluctant to delegate authority and devolve power,” Mohan Lal Acharya, a constitutional lawyer, told the Post. “The government should keep those bills in priority in the present session before the Parliament gets dissolved for the elections.”