Differences stall House committees’ formationA reason for delay is the intent of some to pass transitional justice law amendments without adequate discussion.
Three months since its first meeting, the House of Representatives is yet to constitute thematic committees due to differences among the political parties over the number of their representatives in each committee.
The first meeting of the lower house elected through the November 20 elections commenced on January 9. The parties blamed the lack of regulations for the delay in the formation of the committees. It took two months for the House to endorse its regulations as the parties were divided over whether to suspend the lawmakers who face criminal charges. Similarly, it took a couple of weeks for the ruling parties to backtrack on their demand to curtail the customary prerogative of the Speaker.
After long negotiations, the regulations got endorsed from the House on Sunday. Now, when there are regulations in place, there has been no progress in constituting the House committees, also called mini-Parliament. Speaker Devraj Ghimire, on Wednesday, held a meeting with chief whips and whips of the parties to discuss forming the committees. “We couldn’t reach a conclusion following differences over the distribution of lawmakers in various committees,” Hit Raj Pandey, CPN (Maoist Centre) chief whip, told the Post.
The federal parliament will have 16 committees—10 in the House of Representatives, four in the National Assembly and two common. The constitution of 12 committees, including two with representatives from both Houses, is incomplete. Each committee in the lower house will have 23-25 members. “Our party wants the committees to be constituted in the present House session,” Padam Giri, the chief whip of the CPN-UML, the main opposition, told the Post. “It all depends on the ruling parties.”
Ghimire will also be holding another meeting on the matter. “The Speaker wants the committees formed at the earliest. He will call a Business Advisory Committee meeting soon to decide on the matter,” Shekhar Adhikari, press advisor to Ghimire, told the Post.
The advisory committee got a full shape on Thursday after the parties agreed on the sharing of its 20 representatives. It has six members from the Nepali Congress, five from the UML, two from the Maoist Centre and seven from other parties. The numbers of committee members are decided based on the strength of the respective parties in the full House.
An official at the Parliament Secretariat said the ruling parties are unwilling to constitute the committees until the endorsement of the bill to amend the Enforced Disappearances Enquiry, Truth and Reconciliation Commission Act and one to revise the Constitutional Council Act. “The ruling parties, mainly the Maoist Centre, want the bills endorsed by the full House before the committees are formed. When the parliamentary committees are in place, the bills will be sent to them for detailed discussion, which they don’t want,” said the official on condition of anonymity.
In parliamentary democracy, the committees are set up to make the Parliament more effective. Their role increases when the House is ineffective and not in session. Not just the full House, parliamentary committees also have the responsibility to monitor the government’s actions and the functioning of other state bodies by bringing the executive’s decisions to the public domain, for national debate.
Generally, lawmakers file a number of amendments to the bills registered in Parliament. As the full House is constrained by time to discuss each of them in detail, they are sent to the respective parliamentary committees for discussion. For instance, the transitional justice Act amendment bill has received 28 revision proposals. If detailed discussions are needed, it has to be sent to the Law, Justice and Human Rights Committee.
“Both the bills need to be endorsed, urgently. We shouldn’t wait for the House committees to pass them. It will only delay their endorsement,” Pandey, the Maoist Centre’s chief whip, told the Post. The next House meeting is slated for Friday, but the formation of the House committees is not on the agenda.